TAC Threatens Lawsuit Against South African Government Over Delays in Rollout of HIV/AIDS Treatment Program
The South African treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Monday threatened to file a lawsuit against the government before the country's April 14 elections unless the government begins its national HIV/AIDS treatment program, Reuters reports (Quinn, Reuters, 3/8). The South African Cabinet in November 2003 approved a plan for the program, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs. The program aims to provide antiretroviral drugs to 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008. About 25% of South Africa's economically active individuals are HIV-positive, with about five million total HIV cases in the country. Dr. Nono Simelela, chief director of the Department of Health's HIV/AIDS program, last month said that no one had received treatment yet, and she was unsure when the first patients would receive the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/26). TAC National Chair Zackie Achmat on Monday said that the group plans to meet with Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to discuss the program. He added that if the government does not make an "urgent resolution" on the procurement of drugs for the program by the end of this week, it will "find itself in court" (South African Press Association, 3/8). TAC in January said that Western Cape was the only one of South Africa's nine provinces that had begun disbursing treatment (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/8). The Western Cape government, which has already begun to provide treatment for HIV-positive people, said it will provide antiretroviral drugs to the 2,500 HIV-positive children who need them by April 2005. It is the first province to make such a commitment, according to London's Guardian (Carroll, Guardian, 3/9).
Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi -- the Inkatha Freedom Party candidate who is challenging African National Congress member President Thabo Mbeki in the upcoming elections -- on Monday accused Mbeki of being "complacent" while the "holocaust" of AIDS takes over the country. "HIV/AIDS alone is an issue which demands and dictates a profound change in the leadership of our country," Buthelezi said. Although the ANC is expected to win the election, both the IFP and Democratic Alliance parties have pledged to make HIV/AIDS a campaign issue and "give voice to deepening public anger over the crisis," according to Reuters (Reuters, 3/8).