South African Healthcare – Before and After Apartheid

Published: 16 Nov 2006

By Sylvia M.Findlay, Industry Analyst, Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology, Healthcare - EMEA

The Republic of South Africa has a diverse and complex pharmaceutical market. A look into the healthcare structure unveils the fact that healthcare has been limited or practically non-existent during the apartheid regime in South Africa. The majority of the people had no access to healthcare until the 1990’s. The South African healthcare system is still in its nascent stage of development and has huge scope for improvement. In the past, modernised healthcare facilities were reserved for the white population, whereas today the black and rural communities are slowly helping the development of the healthcare infrastructure. However, the healthcare structure in South Africa is faced by formidable challenges.


It is quite alarming to note that almost 50 percent of the population in South Africa does have access to the most basic drugs. The most challenging situation exists in this geographical area where HIV/AIDS is an epidemic and the antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not accessible due to high pricing. It has been estimated that 5.5 million people were affected with AIDS by the end of 2005 and the prevalence rate was estimated at 18.8% compared to the global prevalence rate of 1.0%. Almost 1 million HIV patients are in need of ART and this poses the greatest unmet need prevailing in South Africa. HIV/AIDS is likely to have a profound impact on South African education, health and economic development. This challenge seeks immediate attention and is gaining political and economic importance on a global scale.

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