JOHANNESBURG – A high percentage of HIV-positive South Africans are missing their clinic appointments to collect their medication and testing for HIV has also dropped drastically due to fears of contracting Covid-19, non-profit and non-governmental health organisation Right to Care said on Tuesday.
South Africa has the largest HIV pandemic worldwide and patients who are not on treatment and have a low immune system are at risk for the coronavirus, with a higher fatality rate, Right to Care chief executive Professor Ian Sanne said.
“HIV positive people who are undiagnosed, or who are not adhering to their medication, have increased risk of worse outcomes should they contract the coronavirus," he said.
"Data from the districts we are supporting shows increasing numbers of missed appointments to collect treatment. It is critical for patients on chronic medication to continue collecting their medication and taking it."
South African health clinics are considered an essential service and have therefore been allowed to continue operating during a nationwide lockdown enforced from March 27 to curb new transmissions of the Covid-19 coronavirus which has infected more than three million people around the world.
Clinics have applied physical distancing rules to protect patients and healthcare workers.
Right to Care noted that South Africa's department of health had a free centralised chronic medicines dispensing and distribution service in place to help people get their government-issued chronic medication more easily outside clinics.
Registered patients can collect their medicine from convenient pick-up points including retailers Dis-Chem, Clicks and Pick n Pay, community halls, private doctors and local "spaza" shops.
Right to Care's ePharmacy has also worked with the health department on "collect & go" lockers which are being fast-tracked at 70 sites in the Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Free State provinces for patients to pick up their medication from May.
Right to Care supports and delivers prevention, care, and treatment services for HIV and TB, including through technical assistance to the private sector, the department of health and the department of correctional services.