Launching a nationwide program to provide anti-HIV drugs to about 500,000 of South Africa's estimated 5 million HIV-positive people is "feasible" and "affordable," according to a new cost study completed by the nation's health and finance ministries, The Wall Street Journal reports. Government officials in October assembled a task force from the two departments to examine the feasibility of establishing a nationwide HIV/AIDS treatment program. The report states that the annual per-person cost of an antiretroviral drug program would be about $1,100 per year, but the document also offers suggestions to dramatically cut that price by offering generic medications and negotiating steeper discounts with drug manufacturers.
The report now goes to health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and finance minister Trevor Manuel for their approval before it will be forwarded to the president and the nation's lawmakers for consideration. Although the ministers have the option of referring the report back to the task force, which is a concern of AIDS activists in the country who frequently clash with Tshabalala-Msimang over HIV treatment issues, the officials are expected to approve it by the end of the week.