Opening Arguments Begin in South African Government’s Appeal of Court Order to Provide Nevirapine To HIV-Positive Pregnant Women
Opening arguments will be heard today in South Africa's highest court in the government's appeal of a Pretoria High Court order requiring it to provide the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant women through the public health system, Reuters/Boston Globe reports (Chege, Reuters/Boston Globe, 5/2). In December, South African High Court Judge Chris Botha sided with HIV/AIDS activists in ruling that the government must provide nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant women through its public health facilities to prevent vertical HIV transmission. The government immediately appealed the decision, saying that the Constitutional Court needed to decide whether the courts had the authority to intervene on policy issues. In March, Botha issued an execution order compelling the government to comply with the court's ruling while the appeal was pending. The government appealed the execution order and lost (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/4). In the meantime, the government recently announced "some shifts" in its HIV/AIDS policy, including allowing the provision of antiretroviral drugs to rape survivors, and officials hinted that they may roll out a universal access program for nevirapine. Nevertheless, the government chose to continue to pursue its appeal of Botha's ruling out of constitutional concern that the ruling had improperly allowed the courts to "dictate" government policy. "Because it is a matter with such major precedent for future policy, we decided to seek the wisdom of the constitutional court," Joel Netshitenzhe, the primary government spokesperson, explained. Arguments will be heard today and tomorrow, but a ruling is not expected for at least one month (Reuters/Boston Globe, 5/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.