26 February 2008

Dual therapy for HIV babies OK

The Department of Health has given the go ahead to use dual therapy to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

And it's about time too!

For people infected with HIV, treatment cannot cure -- it can only retard the progress of the disease. The treatment of babies, however, is a direct intervention to reduce transmission, and the more new infections we can prevent, the better.

The Department of Health have released a revised policy and guidelines clearing the way for dual therapy in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV.

At the same time, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang dismissed claims that her department was reluctant to implement the new regime.

Up to now, most state clinics have offered only the officially sanctioned single drug, nevirapine, to infants.

Dual therapy will mean the addition of a second drug, AZT, which will increase the effectiveness of the intervention.

Commenting on disciplinary action threatened against KwaZulu-Natal doctor Colin Pfaff for administering dual therapy at Manguzi Hospital, Tshabalala-Msimang implied that the provincial health department was correct in its decision to suspend him.

n the 2005/06 financial year 70 percent of all antenatal clinic attendees were tested for HIV, of whom 26 percent tested positive.

About 60 percent of those who tested positive received nevirapine.
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