South Africa has launched a national CD4/viral load “dashboard” to help doctors and nurses monitor the health of HIV/AIDS patients and reduce fatalities caused by illnesses linked to the epidemic.

The dashboard was launched here Tuesday by the non-profit organization, Right to Care, in collaboration with the Department of Health, the National Health Laboratory Service, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Boston University of the United States.

The ultimate goal of the dashboard is to reach the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) 90: 90: 90 target set for 2020, which says 90 per cent of people infected with HIV should be diagnosed, 90 percent of them should be on treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment should have their viral load suppressed.

South Africa only has 36 months to reach the target, and it is expected that this initiative will be rolled out to all nine provinces between January and March 2017.

It is estimated that there are nearly 6.75 million people infected with HIV in South Africa, with 3.3 million on treatment. Of those who have undergone viral load testing, more than 80 per cent are viral load suppressed.

The Director General of the National Department of Health, Dr Yogan Pillay, said the dashboard data would be communicated monthly and quarterly to all provinces and districts through 4,000 health facilities in the country which are providing services to patients.

The dashboard displays and analyses data in a way that healthcare professionals involved in managing the epidemic can easily engage with. It provides information at a national, provincial, district and individual level.

Pillay said although the programme will be used by health practitioners, patients will feel the benefits as their quality of life will improve as a result. Pillay said while the number of people accessing treatment increases, there is a concern that the number of those defaulting will also increase.

He said early access to treatment helps to suppress viral load, which is the best predictor of an HIV positive patient’s response to treatment. The dashboard will be used to improve the follow-up care of patients with high viral loads.