Washington, Mar 27 : Increasing access to antiretroviral therapies (ART) can significantly reduce AIDS deaths in South Africa, says a new study.
South Africa has one of the largest burdens of HIV infection in the world, with 5 to 6 million individuals and 19 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 infected.
The study by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that more than 1.2 million deaths could be prevented in South Africa over the next five years by accelerating efforts to provide access to antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The team led by Dr Rochelle Walensky, MPH of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) estimated the number of AIDS-related deaths in South Africa through 2012 with the help of sophisticated mathematical model of HIV disease and treatment.
"If ART is not provided to all who need it, HIV mortality will be enormous," said Walensky.
"Deliberate, purposeful, and expedient scale-up will save millions of lives in South Africa alone," he added.
The number of AIDS related deaths were estimated under five scenarios - ranging from maintaining current access levels, through steady and moderate growth levels, to rapid growth and full access for all patients requiring treatment.
The calculations were also based on the fact that one-year survival rate for eligible patients who receive antiretroviral therapy is 94 percent, while only 55 percent of those not treated would be expected to survive one year.
The findings revealed that maintaining current treatment capacity would lead to 2.4 million AIDS-related deaths by 2012 and immediate full access would drop deaths to 800,000.
"Continued investments in antiretroviral treatment programs worldwide are a public health imperative; the potential loss of life without such support is simply unacceptable," Walensky added.
The study appears online in Journal of Infectious Diseases.