Cheap drugs won't stop scourge of AIDS in South Africa

June 25, 2001

In this issue of CMAJ, Dr. Daniel Ncayiyana, editor of the South African Medical Journal, comments on the state of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in his country. He says his country's government has offered unequivocal support for drugs to treat opportunistic infections due to HIV/AIDS, but has been justifiably cautious about committing to prophylaxis against mother-to-child transmission (MCTC), antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other treatment programs. Dr. Ncayiyana states that it is not clear that South Africa can afford to treat every patient with AIDS, even with greatly reduced drug prices. Secondly, he states it is not feasible to expect South Africa's poorly equipped hospitals and clinics in remote areas to provide the necessary infrastructure for a successful treatment program, and the country lacks the capacity to counsel and test all pregnant women at risk for MTCT. He also states that while ART will undoubtedly help alleviate suffering, it will not help "contain the scourge" of AIDS in South Africa.
Antiretroviral therapy cannot be South Africa's first priority
-- D.J. Ncayiyana

Contact: Professor Daniel Ncayiyana, Editor, South African Medical Journal, Cape Town, South Africa; tel. 011-27-31-308-5100, email:

Canadian Medical Association Journal

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