Mandela, Carter, Gates Sr. Call for Treatment Access in South Africa
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yesterday called for greater access to AIDS drugs in South Africa, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/7). Gates and Carter are in Africa through March 12 to meet with heads of state, government ministers, health workers, faith-based organizations, volunteers, private businesses and HIV-positive individuals to draw attention to the African epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/25). Speaking at the Zola clinic in Soweto, which dispensed AIDS drugs to about 3,000 pregnant women last year to prevent vertical HIV transmission, the three men said that the government should expand treatment efforts and take steps to end the stigmatization of those with the disease. Mandela praised Gauteng province Premier Mbhazima Shilowa for expanding treatment access to nevirapine through public hospitals. Mandela acknowledged that AIDS drugs may be toxic, but said people should have the option of taking them if they so choose (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/7). The Gates Foundation also announced at the Soweto clinic that it has awarded four South African AIDS projects $150,000 to promote HIV prevention and provide services to people with the disease (Agence France-Presse, 3/7). After meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang today, Carter said that he "regretted that South Africa had been stigmatized by the debate over antiretroviral drugs." He said that he had asked Mbeki why the government condemned Shilowa after he announced he would expand Gauteng province's nevirapine program. He said that Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang responded that they wanted to prove the drug's efficacy and safety before expanding its use (South African Press Association, 3/8). Carter and Gates are keeping an online account of their trip on Slate magazine's Web site (Slate, 3/6). The journal entries are available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.