THE Eastern Cape has nearly 240 000 people eligible for anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment in public health facilities, health MEC Sicelo Gqobana said.

“Based on prevalence [of HIV/Aids], it is estimated that 239 935 clients are eligible for ARV medication, but not all of those people currently receive medication,” Gqobana said in response to a parliamentary question posed by the DA’s John Cupido.

“Some of the clients [who were eligible to receive ARV medication] have not as yet presented themselves to our facilities,” he said.

Gqobana also said the number of those receiving ARVs was less than 200 000.

“As at the end of March 2012, 188 373 patients are currently accessing ARV medication from public health facilities across the province,” he answered in response to how many people in the province were registered to receive ARV medication and how many received the drugs.

However, he said HIV prevalence measured among pregnant women stood at 29.9% while the HIV counselling and testing campaign yielded 13% prevalence not only on pregnant women but other categories of people as well.

Cupido yesterday described the figure as shocking. He said the department should work hard to ensure people were educated about the importance of getting onto the ARV treatment.

Cupido also said the department should ensure there was enough supply of ARVs at clinics. “The department needs to ensure the medication is easily accessible be it in rural or urban areas. If they do so, I’m sure the number [of people receiving ARV medication] will significantly increase,” Cupido added.

Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the 51 562 who were not accessing treatment, despite being registered for ARV treatment, were those still being monitored by the department for inclusion on the ARV treatment.

“Those that have a CD4 count above 350 are being monitored. They are not ready to be on treatment. The policy states that everyone who has a CD4 count of 350 or less is eligible for treatment,” Kupelo said. — mayibongwem@