African National Congress ‘Lashes Out’ at Assertions by Democratic Alliance Leader That Western Cape HIV/AIDS Programs Will be Hurt by ANC Takeover
The African National Congress "lashed out" at comments made last week by Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon that the Western Cape province would "turn into a replica of the other provinces that pandered to President Thabo Mbeki's bizarre views on AIDS" if the DA loses political control of the province to the ANC, Health-e News Service reports (Thom, Health-e News Service, 11/8). Leon made his remarks to DA councilors in the Free State at a briefing about the recent split between the DA and the New National Party. The alliance had been the main opposition party to Mbeki's ANC, but NNP leaders have now said they will cooperate with the ANC "at all levels of government." Public hospitals in the Western Cape, which is currently controlled by a NNP-DA coalition, provide free antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent vertical HIV transmission. The hospitals also provide the drugs to individuals who have been raped as a post-exposure treatment to prevent HIV infection (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/8). Except for a government-sponsored 18-site pilot project to provide nevirapine to pregnant women announced in January, the government has been reluctant to provide the drugs through public hospitals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/22).
Abandoning Programs Would be 'Negligent'
Health-e News Service reports that it is a "forgone conclusion" that current Western Cape Health Minister Nick Koornhof will lose his position to either an ANC or NNP member. Leon's statement was "nothing more than political chicanery and a desperate attempt ... to muster support for a misguided political strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Western Cape populace," the ANC's health commission said in a statement. Leon's "arrogance" was "evident by the fact that he conveniently forgets that the reason the Western Cape is so far in their AIDS policies is as a result of the leadership of then MEC for health, Ebrahim Rasool," the statement added. ANC National Health Secretary Dr. Saadiq Kariem said that it would be "irresponsible" to revoke funding for the province's programs that aim to stop vertical transmission of HIV, adding that "to pull the rug out" from under the women taking part in the program would be "negligent, something that managers could be taken to court for" (Health-e News Service, 11/8).