Mandela Reiterates Belief That Antiretroviral Drugs Should Be Made Available to All South Africans
Former South African President Nelson Mandela on Friday reiterated his belief that all HIV-positive South Africans should have access to antiretroviral drugs through the public health system, the South African Press Association reports. Mandela made his call for drug access in a statement expressing his condolences at the death of singer Anneline Malebo, who died in Cape Town on Wednesday of AIDS-related causes. Malebo, who was diagnosed with HIV two years ago, had only begun taking antiretroviral drugs three weeks prior to her death. She had declined to take the drugs before because she was concerned that the high cost of the medications would wipe out her children's inheritance. Mandela said, "We ... learnt with great sadness that Anneline's economic position made her unable to take antiretrovirals earlier. This again emphasizes the need for us to make treatment available in the public sector and in places accessible to those who cannot afford otherwise."
Other Calls For Treatment
Mandela last month issued a call for expanded treatment access at the XIV International AIDS Conference, saying it was "unacceptable" that children were being orphaned because their parents could not afford antiretroviral therapy. He repeated his stance again last month after meeting with Treatment Access Campaign Chair Zackie Achmat, who is HIV-positive but refuses to take antiretroviral drugs until they are accessible to all South Africans. Mandela then met with President Thabo Mbeki, who has drawn criticism for questioning the causal link between HIV and AIDS and for calling antiretroviral drugs toxic. Mbeki's government has refused to offer the drugs through the public health system and recently unsuccessfully fought a court order mandating that it provide nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant women who use the public health system. Despite their differences on HIV/AIDS issues, Mandela has continued to support Mbeki's bid for reelection as president and as head of the African National Congress (South African Press Association, 8/16). The content of Mandela's meeting with Mbeki on Aug. 1 has not been disclosed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/5).