Anti-retrovirals give life: doctors

1 December 2005

Wits University’s Faculty of Health Sciences has come out strongly in support of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) for HIV/Aids on World Aids Day 2005.

“This is important in the light of ongoing public confusion and fear surrounding ART, which we believe may prevent people from making use of life-saving medication that is increasingly available in the Gauteng province,” Professor Max Price, dean of the faculty, said in a statement.

Faculty doctors working in public hospitals have been closely associated with Gauteng province’s ART programme since its inception in April 2004 and are collectively following up more than 10 000 people on ART, Price said.

“The results are dramatic and unequivocal,” said Dr Francois Venter, an HIV clinician who works at the Johannesburg Hospital and who is currently president of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society.

“At Johannesburg Hospital, out of every 100 of patients started on ART, 90 are able to return to work and family life within months,” Venter said. “In the era before ART was made available, of these 100 patients, 40 would have died and another 40 would have become severely ill within one year.”

According to Price, these findings are similar across all the ART treatment sites where Wits faculty doctors are involved.

Positive personal testimonies of people on the public sector ART programme have been found at the Harriet Shezi Children’s HIV clinic at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

“Every life saved is a household spared the devastating loss of a parent, a bread-winner or a child,” said Dr Tammy Meyers, the paediatrician in charge of this clinic.

“We strongly encourage all people living with HIV to seek care from health facilities in the province to enable them to make an informed choice about whether to start treatment and to find out how and where they can obtain treatment for HIV.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter