There has been a 100% increase in the number of patients on antiretroviral treatment at Cape Town clinics in the last five years, and HIV testing is exceeding set targets, the City of Cape Town said in a statement.
The City has continued to make progress in the last five years in scaling up the availability of antiretroviral treatment (ART) to HIV positive patients.
According to a survey cinducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), approximately 1 in 20 people in Cape Town are HIV positive. Without ART, infection with HIV causes a gradual decline in the function of the immune system, which leads to higher rates of opportunistic infections such as cancers, tuberculosis and early death.
Effective treatment with ART leads to suppression of HIV, and the recovery of the immune system. This helps reduce the risk of illness and prolongs life. Recent evidence has also show that ART drastically reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to sexual partners.
In partnership with the Western Cape Government Department of Health, the City has played a fundamental role in the provision of ART since it was first introduced in 2004. The last five years have seen significant growth in initiating and maintaining patients on ART.
Policy changes from the National Department of Health, which has allowed more patients to become eligible for ART; a doubling in the number of City facilities that offer ART; and the scaling up of antiretroviral clubs are just some of the factors that have contributed to this impressive growth.
“This is an achievement worth celebrating ahead of World Aids Day. It’s proof of what is possible through collective effort and when people take accountability for their health and well-being. I also want to commend the staff and our non-governmental organisation partners who work very hard under sometimes trying circumstances to provide crucial services to communities.
“That said, there are many still challenges. Chief among these is that we are struggling to reach adolescents and men. Of all the tests in the public sector in the city over the last number of years, men make up only about one-third. They also account for only about one-third of patients starting ART. We have to address this if we are to continue making meaningful progress in the fight against HIV,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith.
The City said it encourages every resident to know their HIV status by testing at least every 12 months and, if positive, to take ART consistently. HIV testing services are freely available at every City health facility, with ART at 38 of these facilities. As part of our commitment to service delivery and in line with the Organisational Development Transformation Plan, City Health is in the process of expanding its ART footprint.