South African Anglican Archbishop Calls Government Denial of Nevirapine to HIV-Positive Pregnant Women a ‘Sin’
The Anglican archbishop of South Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, on Friday called the South African government policy that prevents HIV-positive pregnant women from receiving the antiretroviral nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission a "sin," Reuters reports. The South African government is appealing a High Court ruling that would force the country under "constitutional duty" to "increase access" to nevirapine, which has been shown to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission rates by 50%. The government argues that the drug is "costly" and that its safety is questionable. Medical experts, however, say that the drug is a "life saver" and has only "limited" side effects. Ndungane said, "If the life of a child rests on drugs, but she does not receive them, it's a sin; it's immoral," adding, "When the government stands in the way of our right to life then the government has overstepped its boundaries." He also said that AIDS must be "declared a national emergency." After making a deal with a pharmaceutical company that will supply nevirapine for free for five years, two South African provinces have said they will distribute the drug, against national government policy, to HIV-positive pregnant women (Reuters, 1/26). Nearly one quarter of pregnant women in South Africa are HIV-positive, and more than 70,000 infants are infected with HIV through vertical transmission each year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/25). South Africa's national government, led by President Thabo Mbeki, who has questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, has continually "come under fire for its haphazard approach" toward fighting HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.