South Africa’s anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment programme is now reaching 3.5 million people, says the National Treasury.

“Spending growth in health is mainly to support the expansion of the HIV/AIDS programme, in particular, anti-retroviral treatment, which now reaches 3.5 million people,” according to the Treasury’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) tabled by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in Parliament here Wednesday.

The Treasury said a significant increase in ARB therapy was expected with the implementation of universal test-and-treat covering treatment initiation in all age groups regardless of CD4 count in September 2016.

The government has also adopted the 90-90-90 HIV and AIDS targets (90 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 per cent of those who know their status have been introduced to ARVl therapy, and 90 per cent of those receiving treatment have suppressed viral loads.

In the MTBPS, the government said health sector budgets were under pressure because of compensation costs, rising utilisation of public health services, higher import prices of medicines as a result of currency depreciation, and sector priorities which required additional funding.

“The latter includes the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, which is to be opened later this financial year and needs operational funding.”

The MTBPS noted that the health sector accounts for about 12 per cent of public expenditure and it is important to use these resources efficiently.