Antiretroviral treatment reaches 3.5 million

Cape Town – South Africa’s antiretroviral treatment programme is now reaching 3.5 million people, National Treasury said on Wednesday.

Spending growth in health is mainly to support the expansion of the HIV/AIDS programme, in particular antiretroviral treatment, which now reaches 3.5 million people, said National Treasury in its Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

In the MTBPS that was tabled by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in Parliament, Treasury said a significant increase in antiretroviral therapy is expected with the implementation of universal test-and-treat (treatment initiation in all age groups regardless of CD4 count) in September 2016.

Government has also adopted the 90-90-90 HIV and AIDS targets (90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of those who know their status have been introduced to antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of those receiving treatment have suppressed viral loads).

In the MTBPS, government said health sector budgets are under pressure due to compensation costs, rising utilisation of public health services, higher import prices of medicines as a result of currency depreciation, and sector priorities that require additional funding.

The latter includes the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, which is to be opened later this financial year and needs operational funding.

The MTBPS noted that the health sector accounts for about 12% of public expenditure and it is important to use these resources efficiently.

The public health system is realising lower pharmaceutical costs as a result of centralised tendering, market intelligence, medicine stock surveillance and new distribution systems.

With regard to the proposed sugar-sweetened tax, government said this is expected to help reduce the incidence of non-communicable disease associated with high sugar intake such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Health promotion interventions, including primary prevention and early detection of non-communicable diseases, will be implemented alongside the proposed tax.

Economic infrastructure and network regulation

Meanwhile, government continues to invest in economic infrastructure in line with the National Development Plan.

The baseline allocation of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) includes planning for the construction of the N2 Wild Coast road, upgrades to the R573 Moloto Road, and the maintenance of 21 403km of the national road network.

The N2 Wild Coast road is to be approximately 410km, 112km of which is new and includes nine bridges. Funding for the major bridges crossing the Msikaba and Mtentu river gorges will be from the budget and the road upgrades will be tolled.

According to the MTBPS, the project will reduce travel time between East London and Durban by up to three hours. A medium-term allocation to the provincial roads maintenance grant is expected to maintain 5 390km of provincial roads.

Government plans to begin connecting public buildings to high-speed internet over the MTEF period and will provide broadband to 6 135 government sites at a minimum speed of 10 megabits per second.

Given delays as a result of litigation, government proposes to shift funds away from subsidies for set-top boxes in 2017/18. The funds, said the MTBPS, will be reallocated to the dual illumination project, which will operate both digital and analogue signals for an interim period before shutting off the analogue signal as part of the digital migration.

Funds are reassigned to support the capacity of the Ports Regulator, and to develop the capacity for rail economic regulation in anticipation of the proposed single transport economic regulator.

To improve management of water resources and strengthen coordination with other institutions involved in water-related matters, funds are shifted to establish water catchment management agencies, said the MTBPS. �

Source: South African Government News Agency