South African Government Responds to AIDS Activists’ ‘Ultimatum,’ Announces Plan To Explore Nationwide AIDS Drug Treatment
The South African government on Wednesday announced that it is "exploring a cost-effective way" to provide antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive individuals, Reuters reports. AIDS advocates, including the Treatment Action Campaign, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, a "key government partner," on Tuesday told government officials that they had until the end of the month to devise a comprehensive AIDS treatment plan or else they would face a civil disobedience campaign. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, in the first public response to the "ultimatum," said that the ministry was working with the Treasury to determine the cost of a state-funded antiretroviral drug program. According to health officials, the government under its current budget could only afford to provide antiretrovirals to approximately 480,000 of the 4.5 million HIV-positive individuals living in South Africa. However, Tshabalala-Msimang said the government "had to do something," according to Reuters, adding, "A donor-funded program is unsustainable." She added, "We'd like to see the cost of antiretrovirals and other medicines coming down" (Chege, Reuters, 2/5). According to South Africa's Observer, the government is expected to announce details of their plan next month (McGregor, Observer, 2/2). AIDS advocates are planning a march on Feb. 14 to restate their demands for a drug treatment program and still plan to follow through with civil disobedience if their demands are not met (Reuters, 2/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.