South Africa’s Reversal of Antiretroviral Drug Policy Has Helped Boost Country’s Currency, Wall Street Journal Reports
The South African rand on Friday hit a four-and-a-half month high of 10.57 to the U.S. dollar -- an increase of 28% over December's low of 13 rand to the dollar -- leading many analysts to speculate that the South African government's recent "U-turn" on HIV/AIDS may be aiding the recovery of the currency, the Wall Street Journal reports (Block Wall Street Journal, 4/29). On April 17, the South African government announced that it would no longer oppose the use of antiretroviral drugs to treat rape victims and announced possible plans to provide the drug nevirapine through the public health system to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/24). The policy shift came after years of "skeptic[ism]" about antiretroviral drugs by the government and "negative sentiment" on the part of observers over the government's handling of the HIV/AIDS issue. The recent reversal has helped "restore" investor confidence and "pav[ed] the way for capital inflows," according to traders and analysts. However, analysts do not expect the rand's recovery to last long because of the expense of educating the public about the disease and treating the nation's five million HIV-positive residents. Developing a comprehensive plan to fight HIV/AIDS -- including prevention, education and treatment -- is expected to raise government HIV/AIDS spending from its current level of $9.8 million to $170 million in 2004 (Block, Wall Street Journal Europe, 4/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.