A nurse at Helen Joseph Hospital checks the ARV drug supply in the hospitals dispensary in this file image. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Johannesburg -

Antiretroviral treatment in Gauteng has plunged from 944 000 patients a year ago to 592 000.

This is according to DA shadow health spokesman Jack Bloom, who said the “bombshell” was dropped in the Gauteng Health Department’s fourth-quarter report, recently tabled in the legislature.

It covers the January to March period this year.

“The question is: what happened to the 352 000 patients who used to receive life-saving ARVs? Are they on the system or discounted? Have they discontinued their treatment?” Bloom asked.

The department failed to respond to queries put to them.

Bloom said the department blaming poor data management at health facilities was a poor excuse.

“All the department can say is that they are training more data capturers, but that in itself is an issue if you don’t have information, if there are already 350 000 patients you cannot track.

“The department should be keeping accurate records to ensure that patients do not default on their treatment, which appears to be happening on a large scale according to the figures,” Bloom said.

He said another concern was that HIV testing had dropped from 93 percent last year to 16 percent, according to the report.

“Drastic action must be taken to ensure HIV/Aids testing and treatment is stepped up in Gauteng, otherwise we will lose all the gains made by the availability of ARVs that have made this a manageable disease rather than a death sentence,” he said.

Earlier this year, former MEC for finance Mandla Nkomfe said about R2.8 billion has been set aside to improve life expectancy and provide HIV and Aids treatment in the province.

The Star