South African Health Minister Announces Additional $87 Million for HIV/AIDS
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in a speech to Parliament on Wednesday announced that the government plans to spend an additional $87 million on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programs in the coming years, Bua News/AllAfrica.com reports. According to Tshabalala-Msimang, the funds will be divided equally between the national health department and the provinces and will be used to reinforce the implementation of the country's Strategic Plan to fight HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB, which runs radio and television awareness campaigns as well as a program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. The funding increase will supplement the additional $433 million allotted for HIV/AIDS in the administration's fiscal year 2003-2004 budget (Mohapeloa, BuaNews/AllAfrica.com, 5/14).
Cabinet To Consider Report on Feasibility of National Antiretroviral Drug Program
Tshabalala-Msimang on Wednesday said that the nation's cabinet plans to consider a new report recommending a national antiretroviral drug program, Reuters/New York Times reports (Reuters/New York Times, 5/14). The report, released earlier this week by a South African task force of officials from both the department of health and the national treasury, found that AIDS drugs are "affordable" and that launching a program to deliver the medicines to HIV-positive people throughout South Africa is "feasible." According to the report, the government could provide antiretroviral drugs to 500,000 HIV-positive South Africans within five years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). Although government officials did not return calls seeking comment on the report, Tshabalala-Msimang in an interview with SABC radio said that the cabinet would consider the report "pretty soon ... obviously this month." Mark Heywood, spokesperson for Treatment Action Campaign, the country's largest AIDS advocacy group, said that there was mounting evidence that the government was willing to back down from its opposition to providing antiretroviral drugs (Quinn, Reuters, 5/14).