TAC Leaks South African Government Report on National HIV/AIDS Treatment Program
The Treatment Action Campaign on Monday leaked the findings of a South African government report that says the country could save the lives of 1.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS by 2010 if the government instituted a universal antiretroviral access program, Reuters reports. The report also says that 733,000 lives could be saved if only half of the HIV-positive people who need the drugs received them. According to the report, 1.2 million people will need antiretroviral therapy by 2008, which could cost between $1.7 billion and $2 billion; currently, the South African government allocates $555 million for HIV/AIDS programs, Reuters reports (Chege, Reuters, 7/14). The report was completed five months ago but was not released, according to South Africa's Cape Times, which said that the report was leaked to politicians, trade unions and others (Sylvester, Associated Press, 7/14). South African government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe said that the report is only a "very first draft," adding, "There is no need for theatrics in dealing with the matter of HIV and AIDS," referring to TAC's release of the document (Reuters, 7/14).
Working Toward Release
The South African Government Communication and Information System said in a statement that the government has "consistently indicated that work was continuing on finalizing the report for submission to the Cabinet, and that the matter was being treated with utmost urgency." The statement also said that TAC was made aware of the status of the report during a meeting three weeks ago with the South African National AIDS Council. "At that meeting, both sides accepted one another's integrity, and SANAC had hoped that the interaction would set relations between it and TAC on a better footing," the statement said. According to the statement, a National Economic Development and Labour Council meeting that was scheduled for yesterday could be the impetus for TAC's action, stating, "[T]hey are trying opportunistically to place themselves at the center of attention" (Mohapeloa, BuaNews/AllAfrica.com, 7/14). Nonkosi Khumalo, a TAC spokesperson, said, "The report confirms what we already know" (Associated Press, 7/14). TAC said in a statement, "Our actions only publicly express the frustration and pain of people who die quietly at home and in our hospitals, in the face of a torrent of excuses and delays" (Carroll, Guardian, 7/15).
South Africa could be facing a "complete economic collapse" in the next four generations if the government does not act to combat HIV/AIDS, according to a World Bank draft report released this week, the Financial Times reports. According to the report, the "real economic threat" from the epidemic is its ability to kill off young adults, according to the Times (Dyer, Financial Times, 7/15). HIV/AIDS could cause children to stop going to school, and young adults could stop bearing and raising children, leading to a "tremendous loss of human capital," VOA News reports (Bryant, VOA News, 7/15). Clive Bell of the University of Heidelberg, one of the authors of the report, said, "AIDS is damaging the [South African] economy's tax base." The World Bank plans to publish the report as a working paper, the Times reports (Financial Times, 7/15).