Africa welcomes news of cheaper drug to prevent newborn HIV transmission
Hospitals in South Africa are heavily burdened by HIV-
|CNN's Cynde Strand reports from South Africa, where as many as one in five tested are infected with HIV
From Correspondent Cynde Strand
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- The news that an
affordable drug, nevirapine, can dramatically reduce mother-
to-child transmission of HIV is being particularly welcomed
in sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS threatens to cripple much
of the continent.
In South Africa, for example, about a quarter of the pregnant
women are HIV-positive. At a private clinic, the cost of a
short course of the drug AZT, now the standard treatment to
prevent the transmission of HIV to newborns, costs $120 -- a
price most people can't afford.
And though state-run hospitals could provide the AZT
treatment for about $60, the government says it, too, cannot
afford the cost of AZT.
"There are very many competing priorities in South Africa,"
said Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa's health
minister. "We are just in the transition period. Everything
By contrast, nevirapine costs just $4 a dose. Researchers
from the United States and Uganda found that administering
just two doses -- one during labor and another three days
after birth -- is even more effective that the short course
"It provides a much more feasible way to obtain the same kind
of reductions in transmission as we get with four weeks (of
AZT,)" said Dr. James McIntyre, director of the Perinatal HIV
Research Unit at Johannesburg's Baragwanath Hospital "It is
obviously going to cost less, but it is also much less of a
burden on the health service."
Indeed, the failure to treat HIV-positive pregnant women has
meant that hospitals in South Africa have been heavily
burdened by HIV-infected children.
"We are being overwhelmed in pediatric wards with the effects
of HIV and AIDS," said McIntyre. "Almost a third of the
admissions to most pediatric wards in large hospitals in this
country are a result of AIDS."
Tshabalala-Msimang says the South African government will
explore the possibility of providing nevirapine.
"I'm sure our researchers would be very keen to collaborate
with the researchers in Uganda so that we can see whether the
results are such that they would persuade us to review our
positions," he says. "We are looking for a drug that is
Health - AIDS
Women and AIDS: The forgotten epidemic
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Ethics Matters -- Risky Business: Helping the HIV-Infected Have Babies
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May 6, 1999
FDA approves new drug to fight HIV
April 16, 1999
Panel: HIV testing should be routine for pregnant women
October 14, 1998
South African government urges nation to fight AIDS pandemic
October 9, 1998
AIDS conference sounds alarm over rich-poor divide
July 4, 1998
Study: AZT, Caesareans reduce HIV spread to infants
June 27, 1998
Boehringer Ingelheim Corp.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Home Page (IAVI)
HIV and AIDS
AZT and AIDS, The Relationship Between HIV and AIDS
Project Inform Perspective 21: AZT During Pregnancy
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