01 September 2016
KZN Department of Health implements HIV 'Test and Treat'
KWAZULU-Natal has initiated its first HIV
patient on antiretroviral treatment (ART) under the new “Test
and Treat” policy, which came into effect today, 01 September
After testing positive, the male patient, who is in his 20s, was
counselled by KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, as
well as nurses at KwaDabeka Community Health Centre this
The new policy is in line with the World Health Organization's
guidelines that the urgent commencement of treatment for people
who are HIV positive – regardless of their CD4 Count - is
National Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced during
his budget speech in May this year that from 1 September South
Africa will implement the new WHO guidelines.
What does this mean for patients?
Those that currently are eligible to be initiated at CD<500 can
now be treated regardless of their CD4 levels. Government has,
on the basis of research evidence, already removed CD4 as an
eligibility criterion for HIV+ pregnant women, children under 5
years of age as well as HIV and TB co-infected patients over the
past few years. This new policy extends this to all people
living with HIV.
According to the National Department of Health, implementation
of the “Test and Treat” policy will contribute to the National
Development Plan goal of increasing life expectancy to at least
70 years by 2030 – people diagnosed with HIV can also live long
and healthy lives once they are on ARV medication.
In welcoming the new policy, KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni
Dhlomo said: “The National Department of Health is aware that
this announcement will result in more HIV positive people
accessing Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) services, which may
lead to congestion and increased waiting times at health
“In order to decrease the burden on both patients and health
facilities, the Department has initiated a process of decanting
stable patients, those that do not need to see a nurse or doctor
more than once a year, into support groups and into the chronic
medicine dispensing and distribution system through which
patients can designate where their medication should be sent to,
closer to their homes. This means that patients who do not have
to see their health worker, need not come to the clinic to
collect their medication as it will be sent to a point close to
MEC Dhlomo said KwaZulu-Natal is ready to implement Test and
Treat. (Test and Treat Audio Message:
English / isiZulu
“We are in a good position because we have scores of nurses who
are trained in the Nurse-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral
Treatment (NIMART), as the enormity of the task at hand is such
that we cannot only rely on doctors to provide ART. The NIMART-trained
nurses are available throughout the province.”
MEC Dhlomo also called upon all patients who tested HIV positive
in the past but did not receive treatment, due to being below
the previous CD4 count threshold of 500, or for other reasons,
to come forward so that they can be initiated.
He urged the public to get tested for HIV at least once a year,
so that people who test positive can be initiated on treatment.
To those who are not yet infected, the MEC’s message was clear:
keep it that way, by using condoms during every episode of sex,
while combining this with medical male circumcision.
“Our message is that diseases must be prevented, because
prevention is better than cure. Out of 3,4 million people who
are HIV positive countrywide, 1,1 million are in KZN. What we
are saying is that there must be no new infections because we as
a department have programmes and services such as free condoms
to help you not get infected. To those who are infected, we are
saying please do not infect others. As we test and treat, we
must make sure there are no other new infections that are coming
into the pool,” he said.
Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health
Contact Desmond Motha on 083 295 3901