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OBJECTIVES: The scaling up of antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV-infected adults requires a sizeable investment of resources in the South African public health care system. It is important that these resources are used productively and in ways that reach those in need, irrespective of social status or personal characteristics. In this study we evaluate whether the distribution of ART services in the public system reflects the distribution of need among adults in the urban population. METHODS: Data from a 2008 national survey were used to estimate the distribution of socioeconomic status (SES) and sex in HIV-positive adults in urban areas. These findings were compared to SES and sex distributions in 635 ART users within 6 urban public ART facilities. RESULTS: Close to 40% of those with HIV are in the lowest SES quintile, while 67% are women. The distributions in users of ART are similar to these distributions in HIV-positive people. CONCLUSIONS: Patterns of ART use in study settings correspond to patterns of HIV in the urban population at the national level. This suggests that the South African ART programme is on track to ensure equitable delivery of treatment services in urban settings.

Original publication





Health policy (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Publication Date





261 - 266


Health Economics Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, 7925, Observatory Cape Town, South Africa.


Humans, HIV Infections, Anti-HIV Agents, Socioeconomic Factors, Adult, Urban Health, Health Services Accessibility, South Africa, Female, Male, Healthcare Disparities