Mandela Says He Will Attempt to Convince Mbeki to Begin Offering Antiretrovirals to All South Africans
Former South African President Nelson Mandela on Saturday said he plans to meet with current President Thabo Mbeki in an attempt to convince Mbeki to make antiretroviral drugs available to all South Africans, the Associated Press reports. Mandela made the announcement after visiting Treatment Action Campaign Chair Zackie Achmat, who is HIV-positive but refuses to take antiretrovirals until the government makes the treatments available to everyone in the general population (Associated Press, 7/27). Antiretroviral drugs are "freely available" to South Africans who have medical insurance, including Achmat, but are not available in state hospitals, which treat most of the country's residents, Reuters reports. Speaking outside Achmat's home on Saturday, Mandela said, "[Achmat's] position is that as long as the drugs are not available to everybody, especially the poor, he will not take them" (Boyle, Reuters, 7/27). Mandela added, "I've got a case to take to the president of the country and to acquaint him with what [Achmat's] position is. I know under what conditions [Achmat] will be prepared to take treatment." The South African government has said that the drugs are "too costly" to give to all South Africans with HIV/AIDS. According to officials from TAC, treating a person with HIV/AIDS would cost about $35 each month. "It's not cheap but it is affordable and the cost will be far greater" if the South African government does not fund antiretroviral treatment, Achmat said (Associated Press, 7/27). According to Reuters, Mandela, who generally supports Mbeki's policies, has become "increasingly critical" of the president's position on HIV/AIDS. Mandela also has "suggested" that people with HIV/AIDS, not the government, should be allowed to decide whether the risks of antiretroviral drugs are greater than the benefits (Reuters, 7/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.