Until now, state-funded ARV treatment has comprised three different pills taken at different times during the day. The new FDA combines the three key agents from these pills in a single pill that only needs to be taken once a day.
Although welcoming the FDAs as easier and more convenient for patients, activists and health professionals alike have warned that a stockout of the drug could have a catastrophic effect on the country's public HIV/AIDS treatment programme – the largest of its kind in the world.
"With the individual ARV drugs, if there is a shortage of one ARV then people can still take the other two drugs, though it's not ideal. However, if there's a stockout of the fixed-dose pill, then patients will have no recourse," Mark Heywood, executive director of health and social justice advocacy group Section 27, tells IPS.
Dr. Kevin Rebe of the Anova Health Institute, which runs the Health4Men programme focusing on HIV prevention and treatment, agrees.
"The risk of FDAs is that there isn't really a good fall-back," he tells IPS.
He points out that even a few missed doses could result in resistance to treatment: "You need to get 95 out of every 100 doses right, otherwise you risk treatment failing and the patient would then have to move on to a different, possibly more complex and more costly, treatment. So if there is a stockout (of FDAs), the implications could be severe."
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