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Researchers estimate lives lost due to delay in antiretroviral drug use for HIV/AIDS in South Africa
Date:10/20/2008

Boston, MA More than 330,000 lives were lost to HIV/AIDS in South Africa from 2000 and 2005 because a feasible and timely antiretroviral (ARV) treatment program was not implemented, assert researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in a study published online by the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) (http://www.jaids.com/). In addition, an estimated 35,000 babies were born with HIV during that same period in the country because a feasible mother-to-child transmission prophylaxis program using nevirapine (an anti-AIDS drug) was not implemented, the authors write.

The paper estimates the consequences of the HIV/AIDS policies followed by the South African government for a five-year period when neighboring countries ramped up their HIV-prevention programs. The paper may have broader implications for the evaluation of consequences of public health programs.

Dr. Pride Chigwedere, MD, SD, lead author of the paper, and colleagues estimated what they described as the ARV benefits lost that were attributable to government policies restricting or delaying the use of ARV treatment in South Africa. For comparison, the authors used Botswana and Namibia, neighboring countries facing epidemics of similar scale and dynamics and with similar resources per capita. Dr. Chigwedere led the analysis while earning his doctoral degree in immunology and infectious diseases from HSPH, graduating in June 2008. He came to HSPH from Zimbabwe, where he was a practicing physician treating AIDS patients.

South Africa is one of the countries most severely affected by the AIDS epidemic. The authors cite UNAIDS data that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the adult population is 18.8 percent, with approximately 5.5 million persons infected with HIV. Under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki, who was president of South Africa during the period examined in the paper, the government restricted use o
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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