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Health Dept wants to expand world's largest HIV treatment plan

The Health Department says more people living with HIV and Aids will benefit from its plan.

The Health Department has managed to secure the world’s lowest prices for HIV medication. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department says with the drop in the price it will pay for antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in the next financial year, it will be able to invest more money in its HIV treatment plan.

The Department has managed to secure the world's lowest prices for HIV medication with the new plan running for three years from 1 April.

The tender is worth R14 billion and will be split between four pharmaceutical firms.

Officials say the new prices for ARVs will see government spending around R110 per head for a 28-day pack.

The department says this is just over a third of its current expenditure.

Spokesperson Joe Maila says more people living with HIV and Aids will benefit.

"We shall continue to expand and therefore can put more people on treatment."

South Africa currently has the largest HIV treatment plan in the world reaching about 2.7 million people.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says his department aims to purchase different types of life-saving medication at a cheaper rate in future after recently securing more affordable antiretroviral drugs.

Motsoaledi is adamant this is just the first step in reducing prices as the next involves proposed changes to drug patent laws.

"We are waiting for the Department of Trade and Industry and we hope that it will happen this year to change the intellectual property regulations of the country so that we start acquiring very cheap drugs, not only ARV's but any drugs."

In September 2013 the Department of Trade and Industry published a draft framework for a new policy on intellectual property which included patents on life-saving drugs.

"If we did not do what we did, if we did not fight to achieve the lowest prices, the country would be paying R29 billion to please the 2.7 million people we have got on the programme."