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More Widespread HIV Treatment Helped South Africa Increase Life Expectancy, Researchers Say

With the average life expectancy for South Africans at 60 years old, the country “has achieved a ‘stunning’ increase in life expectancy in the last three years due to a government push to roll out antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people with HIV/AIDS,” according to a study (.pdf) published in the Lancet on Thursday, Reuters reports. Nearly two million of the six million people in the country living with HIV/AIDS are on antiretroviral treatment, compared with only 912,000 in 2009 when the life expectancy was 56.5 years, the news agency notes, adding that the country’s treatment program is the largest in the world.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research and a member of the research team, said, “That increase in life expectancy is nothing short of stunning. You don’t see those kinds of increases in the real world,” according to Reuters. Lead researcher Bongani Mayosi of the University of Cape Town credited the administration of President Jacob Zuma, including Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, for helping to put in place policies allowing for the progress, the news agency states (Sulaiman, 11/29). In related news, “South Africa on Thursday awarded a $667 million contract to supply life-prolonging HIV medicine to 12 international and domestic firms,” Reuters reports in a separate article. The firms will share the contract, which “aims to increase the number of people on treatment by nearly 50 percent, to 2.5 million next year,” the news agency writes (Motsoeneng, 11/29).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.