South African AIDS Activists Insist That Nevirapine Suit Against Government Will Continue
AIDS activists from the Treatment Action Campaign and other groups will begin a court case Monday against the South African National Department of Health and eight of nine provincial health ministers, alleging that government health officials are "violating [AIDS] sufferers' constitutional right to life and health care" by not providing the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to the nation's pregnant women to reduce the risk of vertical transmission, Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports. TAC Chair Zackie Achmat said that the groups had settled with the Western Cape Province government, as all pregnant women are offered nevirapine during childbirth there. South Africa has resisted using nevirapine and AZT in the public health system, saying that the drugs are "too expensive and toxic." South African President Thabo Mbeki has denied a causal link between HIV and AIDS and said that the drugs are as harmful as AIDS itself. The World Health Organization is backing the activists and will provide written testimony supporting the efficacy of the drugs. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang insisted in a radio interview that South Africa has a limited budget for medicines and cannot "spend all that money on antiretrovirals." She said that the decision not to provide antiretrovirals does not mean that the government is ignoring those with HIV and AIDS. The health department is currently conducting pilot projects in hundreds of hospitals to determine the effectiveness of nevirapine in preventing mother-to-infant HIV transmission (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 11/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.