The Free State plans to launch a new generic antiretroviral (ARV) drug in January next year as it steps up efforts to enroll more patients on the life-saving treatment.
The new pill, which is a combination of Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir (TLD), is said to effectively suppress the viral load much faster and has less side effects.
The Free State currently has a total of 284 614 people on ARVs.
TLD, which is a three-in-one drug, has been recommended by the World Health Organisation for both first and second-line treatment of HIV.
Health MEC Montseng Tsiu yesterday said in response to questions from The Weekly that she was excited about the development which she described as progressive in the treatment of HIV.
“TLD is indeed a game-changer for people living with HIV because it suppresses the viral load quickly and has less side effects,” said Tsiu in a response sent out by the department’s spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi.
This followed the national launch of the TLD by health minister Zweli Mkhize in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday. The initial rollout is in six provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and the Free State.
Tsiu said all people living with HIV are eligible for TLD regardless of gender, race, CD4 cell count and clinical stage. TLD is a small, easy to swallow tablet that can keep working even if the virus changes.
“We are well informed by experiences elsewhere in the treatment of patients that while side effects are uncommon, some patients have reported nausea, insomnia or occasional dizziness, but these are mild and manageable, she noted.
“In all circumstances and with all other medications, women who want to get pregnant soon and those who are pregnant, should discuss the benefits and potential risks of TLD with their healthcare provider to make an informed choice,” she advised.
The MEC warned that patients on TB treatment are advised to finish their treatment before switching to TLD, adding there are other ART (antiretroviral therapy) options that can be considered while one is on treatment for TB available at local health centres.
An estimated 7.7-million people are believed to be infected by HIV in South Africa.
At the end of September, the country – which has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world – had 4.8 million people on treatment. The figure is however behind government’s target as it planned to reach that six months earlier in March.
It now plans to provide treatment to about 6.1 million people by December next year. The United Nations wants to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.
The national health department has in the past expressed concern that uptake for ARVs has been particularly slow among children and men. As a result, only 60 percent of infected children are on treatment while the figure for men is even lower at 60 percent. For women, the number stands at 72 percent.