Nolundi Mfecane, the province’€™s project manager for the comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan, says the province has ‘€œexceeded its target of 10 000 people on treatment by the end of the financial year in March’€.

At present, 25 facilities are offering treatment at least four days a week and this will be increased to 45 by March 2006 with a target of 25 000 patients.

Mfecane said healthworkers were ‘€œvery committed to the programme’€.

‘€œPeople prefer to work for the ARV programme because they are learning a lot and because they can see the huge impact it is making on patients,’€ said Mfecane.

Non-governmental organisations are assisting with community education, and were also providing lay counsellors who are able to visit patients at their homes. Four community radio stations publicise the programme every day, providing potential patients with valuable information about where they can get treatment.

Those who need food support are given free supplies of Philani, fortified porridge.

Lack of staff and space are the biggest problems for the programme, said Mfecane. In addition, some facilities were charging patients ‘€œand this is a barrier that could cause a problem for adherence so we are addressing this’€.

The National Health Laboratory Service has been able to provide results for CD4 tests in two to three days, while viral load results take five days. CD4 tests (measure of immunity in the blood) are crucial as people need to have a CD4 count of less than 200 to qualify for the drugs.

Between last April and December, the NHLS has processed 96 566 CD4 tests and 10 808 viral load tests.

‘€œSo far, there have been no serious adverse drug reactions and no deaths,’€ says Mcefance. ‘€œBut some of the reported side effects of the drugs include dizziness, rash, peripheral neuropathy (pain or numbness in hands and feet), tiredness, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.’€ ‘€“ Health-e News Service.