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ARVs to be available through special ATMs

Written by Zizo Zikali

Access to treatment will be now be made easier for people living with HIV/AIDS as they will now be able to collect their medicine at shopping malls thanks to the introduction of specials ATM machines.

The machines, or rather pharmacy dispensing units, are equipped to dispense medication and are set to be rolled out at Gauteng malls.

The Gauteng Department of Health in partnership with organisations EQUIP and Right to Care are engaging in a pilot project to ensure sufficient and easy access to treatment by people living with HIV/ AIDS.

To achieve the 90-90-90 challenge – a plan to ensure that 90% of all South Africans know their HIV status by 2020 – the pharmacy dispensing units are being set up in selected areas of Johannesburg to ensure accessibility of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Dr Thembi Xulu, Chief of Party at EQUIP, describes the pharmacy dispensing units as a groundbreaking solution that will allow patients to quickly and conveniently collect their prescriptions.  A PDU is an ATM-like innovation using electronic and robotic technology to dispense medication.  It is being piloted in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Health at Ndofaya Mall in Soweto (5 PDUs), Baragwanath Mall in Soweto (3 PDUs), an unnamed outlet in Diepsloot and another 4 PDUs at the Alex Plaza in Alexandra.


EQUIP is the first Africa-led USAID-funded global consortium to deliver rapid scale-up of innovative HIV treatment and prevention solutions across 17 PEPFAR countries in Africa, South-East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. EQUIP – comprising Anova Health Institute‚ Kheth’Impilo‚ Maternal Adolescent and Child Health Systems (MatCH), Partners in Hope, and Right to Care – was founded in October 2015 in response to a call from USAID to establish a rapid-response mechanism to support PEPFAR countries reach their UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.

A PDU is an ATM-like innovation using electronic and robotic technology to dispense medication.

This initiative was welcomed by Treatment Action Campaign General Secretary Anele Yawa.

“One of the challenges we face as public health care users is when people visit clinics and are turned away because there are shortages of medicines or drugs stock outs. As much as we support this project that promises to assist in ensuring the availability of medicines, we have a concern. The majority of people living with HIV/AIDS are black, women, poor and some of them are illiterate. We hope that the PDUs will be user-friendly to the illiterate as well,” Yawa said.

An edited version of this story appeared on Health24.

About the author

Zizo Zikali

Zizo Zikali is our Eastern Cape based citizen journalist who also heads news at Inkonjane Community Radio in Flagstaff. Under her leadership, the news team is receiving recognition from local government and is the defending champion for Alfred Nzo District Municipality Annual Award for Best Innovative Current Affairs Programme. Zizo has over six years experience in community media and worked for organisations such as Voice of Tembisa FM from 2011-2014 and Inkonjane community Radio since 2014. Her educational qualifications include an Advanced Radio Certificate from University of the Witwatersrand obtained in 2016 and a Human Resources Management qualification from the Durban University of Technology obtained in 2008.