The South African government has instructed its health department to urgently develop a detailed operational plan for a national anti-retroviral treatment program, in response to mounting pressure to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to AIDS patients.
South Africa's Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the information agency, said on Friday the department will be assisted by South African experts and specialists from the Clinton Foundation AIDS initiative.
The GCIS said the department's work is expected to be completed by the end of September.
"The government shares the impatience of many South Africans on the need to strengthen the nation's armory in the fight against AIDS," it said. "The cabinet will therefore ensure that the remaining challenges are addressed with urgency, and that the final product guarantees a program that is effective and sustainable."
This follows a special meeting by the cabinet on Friday to consider a report of the joint health and treasury task team on treatment options to enhance comprehensive care for HIV/AIDS in the public sector.
The report deals with various challenges, including a program to administer anti-retroviral drugs to enhance the quality of life of those who have reached an advanced stage of AIDS, and proposes various scenarios in dealing with the matter.
The report proceeded from the premise that new developments in drug prices, the growing knowledge on this issue, wide appreciation of the role of nutrition, and availability of budgetary resources had enabled the government to consider this enhanced response.
A summary of the report says information from various data sources clearly indicates that the HIV epidemic in the country is stabilizing, with a significant reduction in its pace in younger age groups.
The full report will be released early next week.
(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2003)