Treatment Action Campaign Asks High Court to Force South Africa to Follow Nevirapine Ruling Despite Government Appeal
The Treatment Action Campaign, a South African HIV/AIDS advocacy group, on Tuesday filed papers with the Pretoria High Court requesting that the court force the government to comply with its earlier ruling to institute a "comprehensive program" to reduce vertical HIV transmission, even while the government appeals that ruling, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 1/31). In December, the high court ruled that the government must supply the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women utilizing the national health system to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child. When administered to the woman at the onset of labor and again to the infant 72 hours after delivery, nevirapine can reduce the risk of transmitting HIV by 50% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/14/01). The government has appealed the decision, citing concerns over judicial involvement in matters of national policy. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that the appeal is not meant to halt the creation of a program to prevent vertical transmission, but "is aimed at clarifying a constitutional and jurisdictional matter which -- if left vague -- could throw the executive policy making into disarray and create confusion about the principle of the separation of powers, which is a cornerstone of our democracy" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/19/01). The South African government has "consistently refused" to provide antiretroviral drugs through the public health system because of "concerns over the cost and safety" of the drugs. However, mounting pressure over the distribution of nevirapine has forced the government to reexamine the "controversial ban." Tshabalala-Msimang and the provincial health ministers met yesterday and will continue discussions today in Johannesburg over the policy. Dr. Zweil Mkhize, health minister of the KwaZulu-Natal province, was expected yesterday to present his province's plan for providing nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women at 20 major provincial hospitals by July (South African Press Association, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.