HIV activists say the court ruling giving pharmacies the green light to prescribe anti-HIV drugs is a move in the right direction to close the treatment gap.
Last week a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court made it possible for pharmacists to prescribe anti-HIV drugs through what is know as the pharmacist-initiated management of antiretroviral therapy (Pimart).
It has been viewed as a milestone and a step closer to an HIV-free society. This judgment will also make it easier for HIV-negative people to access the HIV prevention treatment without necessarily visiting a doctor or clinic.
HIV activist from Durban Sandile Khumalo said this ruling will help a great deal in achieving the Unaids targets calling for 95% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 95% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 95% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy to have viral suppression by 2025.
He said this programme will also bring treatment closer to many people, especially those who are working full time.
“What is usually a challenge is that many people who are on treatment don’t like standing in long queues to get treatment.”
Khumalo said he would also like to see pharmacists get trained and equipped with how to deal with HIV patients.
eThekwini People Living With HIV Sector chairperson and activist Zonke Ndlovu said this pharmacy programme will assist in removing the stigma and discrimination that patients experience in clinics.
Over the years we have seen segregation at government clinics and those who are HIV positive have felt singled out by nurses. We will see less people going to the clinic, which will alleviate the overcrowding as well
She said, as activists, they have been advocating for years to see healthcare services being available within the community and not just in the clinics.
“This will definitely contribute to the decrease of HIV infections, however it will need to be monitored to ensure that people do indeed stay on treatment,” she said.
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The regulator of the pharmacy profession in the country, the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC), welcomed the decision in relation to the legality, rationality and necessity of Pimart.
“Pimart increases access to much-needed HIV prevention and treatment care, with an immediate benefit of improved quality of life and increased life expectancy for more persons living with HIV and Aids.
“Patients that are diagnosed now have the opportunity to be initiated sooner within the multi-disciplinary health care team which now includes pharmacists,” said Mogologolo Phasha, president of the council.