South African Pediatric Society Urges Government to Supply Antiretrovirals to HIV-Positive Women
In response to the South African government's "refusal" to use antiretroviral drugs in the public health system, the South African Pediatric Association last week urged the government to reconsider its position and to supply "affordable" antiretroviral drugs to HIV-infected pregnant women to prevent vertical transmission of the virus. Reuters Health reports that on Nov. 24 the association stated, "We insist that the health ministry accepts its responsibility in helping to prevent innocent newborns acquiring the disease from their mothers," adding, "It is [pediatricians], and not the politicians and policy-makers who care for the ever-increasing numbers of sick children with HIV/AIDS each day." Approximately 200 South African babies per day test positive for HIV, becoming infected in the womb, during birth, or through breastfeeding, and the association said it had been making recommendations for "viable" vertical transmission prevention techniques for the past five years, but that government reaction to these suggestions had been "sluggish at best." South African President Thabo Mbeki has publicly expressed doubt over the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs in helping to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS, sparking ongoing debate among leading government and health officials throughout Africa (Sithole, Reuters Health, 11/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.