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South African Court Backs Pharmacy-Initiated HIV Treatment

In a landmark decision this week, the Pretoria High Court has given the green light to the South African Pharmacy Council’s Pharmacy-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Treatment (Pimart) initiative. This groundbreaking move is set to expand access to crucial HIV services across the nation.

The decision has been met with applause and enthusiasm from healthcare professionals and stakeholders alike. Tanya Ponter, the executive manager at Dis-Chem, a prominent pharmacy chain in South Africa, expressed her support for the initiative. “We applaud any move which will expand access to HIV services,” Ponter stated. She further emphasized that this decision aligns with their healthcare ambitions, which aim to provide integrated primary healthcare to a larger number of consumers. This approach seeks to increase access, reduce costs, and ultimately deliver improved health outcomes for a broader section of South Africans.

Ponter noted the heavy burdens that HIV and TB place on the healthcare system. Therefore, initiatives that enhance access to first-line antiretrovirals and TB-preventative medicine are of paramount importance in improving the overall health outcomes for individuals living with HIV.

Recognizing the growing prominence of primary healthcare as the “front door” of the healthcare system, Ponter emphasized the crucial role that pharmacies play as fundamental entry points to first-line treatment protocols and the wider healthcare ecosystem. The success of pharmacy-provided primary healthcare has gained traction among patients who value the accessibility, convenience, and affordability it offers. The wider availability of effective day-to-day healthcare management is expected to enhance the management of existing conditions such as HIV and contribute to better prevention of more severe illnesses.

Ponter further revealed that Dis-Chem has already taken proactive steps in this direction. The pharmacy chain boasts a roster of over 400 Pimart-trained pharmacists and nursing practitioners who are fully committed to abiding by the expanded scope of practice and competency standards published by the South African Pharmacy Council. With the court’s approval in hand, Dis-Chem will now proceed to apply for the necessary Section 22 (15A) permits from the Department of Health. Once granted, these permits will enable the pharmacy chain to extend the Pimart initiative to its customers, thereby significantly increasing access to vital HIV services.

This decision by the Pretoria High Court marks a pivotal moment in South Africa’s efforts to combat HIV and improve healthcare accessibility. As pharmacies like Dis-Chem step up to the plate, it is anticipated that the expanded availability of primary healthcare services will lead to more effective disease management and prevention, ultimately contributing to the nation’s overall health and well-being.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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