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Universal Test and Treat

What is Universal Test and Treat?

Universal Test and Treat is a strategy in which all HIV infected individuals receive treatment whether in need or not. It is aimed at eliminating HIV as it reduces the rate of spreading the virus to other people. Using World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates; it is predicted that through the Universal Test and Treat programme the country will end HIV within 20yrs as a public health concern.
Already; Test and Treat is offered to certain categories of HIV infected individuals which are:

  • Pregnant women

  • TB infected patients; and

  • Under 5 children

It is important that all people infected are on treatment and have their viral load suppressed.

When will it start?

From the 1st of September 2016, people diagnosed with HIV will get started on treatment immediately. This follows Minister for Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, ground breaking announcement on the 10th of May 2016 ushering in a new policy change in the management and care of people living with HIV and AIDS by effectively removing CD4 count as an eligibility criterion for ARV treatment.

What is the first step towards universal test and treat?

The first step is for everyone to know their HIV status, which has two vital benefits. Firstly, if you are HIV positive, you can take necessary steps before symptoms appear to access treatment, care and support services, thereby potentially prolonging your life for many years. Secondly, if you know you are infected, you can take all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of HIV to others.

What do I do after testing?

Once you know your status, visit the nearest clinic to access treatment or be linked to care and support programme so that you remain negative.

What is the Department doing to increase access to Universal Test and Treat?

The Department is calling on all people who were tested before but not started on treatment to visit their nearest clinic. Secondly; we are expanding access to HIV Testing services by ensuring that these are available in all service points e.g. in the wards, all health facilities, mobile clinics, and community testing centers.
Lastly; treatment is made available in all service points so that you don’t have to follow many queues.

Do I have to come to the clinic every time to collect my medicines?

No. People collecting chronic medicines can now do it near their homes or places of work. People with chronic illnesses are encouraged to register for collection of chronic treatment in 3 ways;

  • Through Chronic Clubs;

  • Space and Fastlane and Appointment;

  • Central Chronic Medicine Distribution and Dispensing (CCMDD) Pick Up points.

This programme has started in many areas and you may find out from your clinic or hospital about it. Currently there are 256 673 patients who are accessing care through the pickup points. A further 44 638 have been identified to collect treatment through adherence clubs, and 42 406 receive treatment at their chosen health facility but go directly to the facility pharmacy and collect treatment; they don’t wait in facility queues.

Are healthcare workers properly trained to manage patients on ART?

Currently; there are many nurses and doctors already trained to management people with HIV and starting them on treatment. All health facilities have received support to train more nurses on relevant courses to help them manage and initiate people on treatment.

How is this programme going to be rolled out?

The first step is to recall all persons who know their HIV positive status to return to their respective facilities so that they are started on treatment. This will done through word of mouth, during health education sessions at facilities, during outreach campaigns and using radio and newspapers. The Ward Based Outreach Teams (WBOT), school health teams and HAST tracer teams will also spread the word and information to educate the community.

Other structures to be used include OSS war rooms, Ward AIDS Council (WAD) in all municipal wards, Local AIDS Council (LAC) in municipalities, District AIDS Council (DAC) in each district municipality and the Provincial Council on AIDS (PCA) will be used to call back patients who are not on treatment yet.
Existing structures who are appointed to work with the department of health such as clinic committees and hospital boards will be briefed through presentations to solicit their support in communicating the same message to their respective communities and to community based structures.

How important is treatment adherence?

“Treatment adherence” is a phrase that means taking your HIV drugs when and at correct time as prescribed. Treatment adherence is extremely important because it affects how well your HIV medications decrease your viral load. The lower your viral load;

  • The less likely that you transmit the virus to your partner;

  • The more protected you are from other opportunistic infections; and

  • The healthier you are likely to be.

Adherence also helps to prevent drug resistance.

What happens if I don’t take my medicines?

If you skip a dose of your medication - even once - the virus can take that opportunity to replicate, and make more HIV. When you skip doses, you may develop strains of HIV that are resistant to the medications you are currently taking - and possibly even to medications you haven’t taken yet. If this happens, it could leave you with fewer treatment options.

How do I prepare myself for life long treatment?

ART is a lifelong treatment that can keep you healthy for many years and greatly reduce your chance to transmitting HIV to your partner(s) if taken consistently and correctly. Treatment is most likely to be successful when you know what to expect and are committed to following the plan that you and your healthcare provider work out together.
For many people, starting treatment for their HIV disease means they have to make significant changes in the way they live. It’s important for you to know what you’re getting into before you start.

Once you start treatment you need to live healthy life. This means;

  • Healthy eating habits

  • Reduce alcohol intake or drugs

  • Use a condom regularly and consistently

  • Exercise regularly; and

  • Stick to one sex partner.

What if I am on medicines for other ailments?

Let you healthcare professional know. You may have to learn to take your medications at different times of the day or change them all together. That’s because some meds can change the way your body processes the other medications when you take them together. They can make some medications ineffective or increase the amount of medication in your body.

You should discuss all of these issues, and any concerns you have, with your healthcare provider BEFORE you begin treatment. Your provider will help you identify barriers to staying on your plan and ways to address those barriers. Understanding issues that can make staying on your treatment plan difficult will help you and your health care provider select the best treatment for you.

What do I do when I react to my medicines?

Immediately go to the health facility. They may;

  • Change the treatment regimen, or

  • Refer you to a specialist or

  • Give advice on taking the medicines.

How often will I do the viral load tests?

At first, you will need to do it every 6 months and yearly thereafter.

As we move forward : Universal Test and Treat

The Government of South Africa has drastically improved the general life expectancy of the people. Breadwinners and parents are now living productive lives without fear of dying too early and leaving behind orphaned children. And mothers living with HIV are now are giving birth to babies without the virus.

From 01 September 2016, all people who test positive for HIV will be initiated on Antiretroviral Treatment immediately after they have been diagnosed. They will not have to wait for their CD4 Count to drop.

This will help lower the risk of illness, and prevent the spread of the virus and early deaths.

We request all the responsible citizens who have taken the test and have tested positive BUT may not be on treatment to go back to their nearest clinics and hospitals to be put on HIV treatment.

If you need to know, your nearest clinic will assist you!


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Site last edited on 06 June, 2023 02:48 PM

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