DURBAN – The South African Department of Health yesterday (Wednesday) said it was “very pleased” with the results announced on Tuesday by researchers working on the South African Intrapartum Nevirapine Trials (SAINT) which showed a significant reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

However, the Department said further work was needed “to confirm the safety and efficacy”, particularly with regard to the development of resistance to Nevirapine.

On Tuesday, Dr Diane Moodley a researcher at King Edward Hospital in Durban presented the results of the SAINT study to the AIDS 2000 conference and said the research team was “perfectly happy” with the findings. In the same presentation, Dr James McIntyre of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) said the drug had not been found to have any adverse impact on the health of either the mothers or children.  

When the health department was asked about this point, the Director General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba said they had been encouraged by the fact that the trial had shown that there were no signs of liver dysfunction. What was of concern was the question of resistance to the drug – one of the reasons which had been raised by the World Health Organisation when it had refused to endorse the drug earlier this year.

The Department of Health said they had yet to meet the researchers who had conducted the SAINT study and would be doing so soon after the AIDS 2000 Conference. During this meeting they would review all the available data as well as implications for public policy.

The Department said it had no problems with the costs of providing Nevirapine for mother to child transmission. “We reaffirm our commitment to implement affordable, safe and sustainable interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission,” it said in a statement. – Health-e News