South African Government to Make Second Appeal Against Nevirapine Execution Order
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang yesterday announced that the government will lodge a second appeal asking the Constitutional Court to overrule a recent execution order mandating that the government provide nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women while its appeal of a previous court order to provide the drug is pending, the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 3/27). The execution order, issued March 11, stated that the government could appeal to the country's Constitutional Court a December High Court ruling mandating that it provide nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant women through its public health facilities. The execution order also instructed the government to provide nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women through all public health facilities "with the capacity for testing and counseling" while the appeal to the December ruling is pending. On Monday, High Court Judge Chris Botha denied the government's initial appeal of the execution order, saying that he did not want to see any "unnecessary" loss of life before the Constitutional Court hears the government's appeal on May 2-3 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/25). Tshabalala-Msimang said yesterday that the government had filed the second appeal against the execution order with the Constitutional Court, South Africa's highest judicial authority, and asked that it be "treated as a matter of urgency." She also emphasized that the government has "no intention of circumventing the courts or simply delaying matters by endless litigation," adding that officials "stand ready to abide by the final decision of the courts on the execution order." However, AIDS activists accused the government of seeking such a delay. Mark Heywood of the Treatment Action Campaign, the AIDS advocacy group that filed the initial lawsuit over nevirapine, said the appeal perpetuates "endless litigation and that has the consequence of denying a life-saving medicine to mothers and children." An estimated five million South Africans are HIV-positive, and between 70,000 and 100,000 infants are born each year with the virus. The use of nevirapine reduces the risk of vertical HIV transmission by up to 50% (Aloisi, Reuters, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.