Misinformation about Use of Antiretroviral Medication
In order to reassure the public and to set the record straight on the benefits and risks of antiretroviral medicines, we would like to highlight the following points:
- Antiretroviral treatment prolongs life, decreases illness and improves the quality of life of people with AIDS. This is well documented in numerous well-designed and scientifically sound studies conducted locally and abroad.
- In countries where antiretrovirals are routinely prescribed when clinically indicated in patients infected with the disease, rates of hospitalisation and death in HIV infected people have dropped considerably and the productivity and quality of life of these patients have been improved dramatically. There are now more than 7000 patients on treatment in the Western Cape, and the majority of these patients are experiencing the same benefits.
- All medicines including antiretrovirals are associated with adverse drug reactions. In rare situations these reactions can be serious and even life threatening. Such reactions can even occur with over-the-counter medicines. However, the benefits provided by the treatment need to have been shown to outweigh the risks before these medicines are licensed, prescribed and dispensed to patients. Internationally there is agreement that the benefits of antiretrovirals far outweigh any risks such treatments may pose.
- In order to ensure that the medicines used in HIV and AIDS patients are as safe as possible, and that adverse reactions are kept to a minimum, health care providers in the Western Cape are trained in clinical and laboratory monitoring of patients on antiretrovirals, and the management of antiretroviral adverse effects should they occur. In addition, treatment guidelines, which outline the management of adverse reactions are widely distributed to all relevant health facilities and a 24-hour medicines information line for health staff has been set up for any queries or advice that health staff may require about their patients’ treatment.
We would like to reassure the general public that we will continue to provide antiretroviral therapy to HIV infected people wherever clinically indicated, as part of our efforts to provide the best possible health care for all in the Western Cape.
We would like to express our concern about the possibility that the programme is being undermined by the distribution of information, which creates any confusion about the benefits and risks associated with antiretroviral treatment.
Herman van der Westhuizen
Media Liaison Officer - Ministry of Health
082 772 9161