Health in 2023: A deceptively busy year in fewer than 1 000 words

2023 was a busy year for healthcare in South Africa. We saw several promising policy developments, landmark court cases, important pieces of legislation, and some changes in leadership. Yet, take a step back and at facility level little seems to have changed. Shortages of healthcare workers persist, corruption is still rife, budgets tight, and our health governance crisis remains as acute as ever. Marcus Low looks back at the year in health in fewer than 1 000 words.

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In-depth: How do long-acting HIV treatments work?

Researchers have been trying to develop antiretroviral medicines that can last for weeks, months or even years per dose. Two such long-acting formulations have been approved in South Africa, but several more are on the horizon. Elri Voigt explores the science behind what makes a formulation long-acting and takes a look at some particularly exciting prospects.

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Vaginal ring to prevent HIV safe to use in late pregnancy and while breastfeeding

A vaginal ring used to prevent HIV infection is safe to use during late pregnancy and while breastfeeding, according to findings presented at a major international HIV conference in Seattle in the United States. The news comes as South Africa prepares for a likely national rollout of the ring and as more research confirms the safety of an HIV prevention pill during pregnancy. It is estimated that offering these products to pregnant and breastfeeding women could avert up to 136 000 new infections in roughly the next decade. Laura Lopez Gonzalez reports.

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In-depth: What should behaviour change efforts look like in the PrEP era?

HIV prevention pills are becoming more widely available in South Africa and the country is set to soon start piloting the use of an HIV prevention injection. But merely having these tools available in clinics and other places does not mean people will use them. Thabo Molelekwa asked several experts what behaviour change communications should look like in this new era of HIV prevention.

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Women in Health: From test tubes to impacting lives – Dr Thesla Palanee-Phillips on making a difference with science

Dr Thesla Palanee-Phillips is the Director of Clinical Trials at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) at the University of the Witwatersrand. As part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series, Elri Voigt spoke to her about what set her off into a career in science, the significance of the ASPIRE trial that she co-chaired, and juggling motherhood and her career.

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Women in Health: “I don’t like seeing anybody treated unfairly” – new leader of HIV Clinicians Society

Juliet Houghton was recently appointed as the CEO of the Southern African HIV Clinician’s Society (SAHCS). As part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series, Bienne Huisman spoke to her about her life working in HIV, her new role at the SAHCS, the importance of being able to laugh, and the Shakespearian origins of her name.

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