Treatment Action Campaign Sues South African Health Department To Obtain Release of ARV Program Details
The HIV/AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Monday announced that it has filed suit against the South African Department of Health to obtain the release of a document that gives the details of the government's national antiretroviral drug program, the SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports. According to Fatima Hassan, an attorney with the AIDS Law Project of Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, the health department was supposed to attach the document -- called "annexure A" -- to its ARV program operational plan that was released in November 2003. The document details "vital" information about the program, including patient treatment targets and timetables, as well as when the government aims to achieve certain objectives in specific provinces, according to the SAPA/Mail & Guardian (Maclennan, SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 9/13). "We are basically going to court to demand the release of an (annexed document) to the government's ARV national rollout plan, which details timetables and patient targets," Hassan said, adding, "It's a public document and since February we have been trying to get the government to release it" (Agence France-Presse, 9/13). Under the national ARV program, officials had expected 50,000 HIV-positive people to be on antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year and 1.4 million people to be on the drugs by 2009 at a total cost of $700 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/7). The Pretoria High Court is expected to hear TAC's application on Nov. 2, according to Hassan. South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang already has filed notice of her intention to oppose the application, the SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 9/13).
Program 'Progressing Very Slowly,' Organizations Say
Several organizations, including the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, TAC and Anglo American released a report on Monday saying the national ARV program is "progressing very slowly" because of a "want of political leadership," South Africa's Cape Times/Independent Online reports. The organizations have established a forum to monitor South Africa's ARV program, as well as to "sound 'early warnings'" and announce "successes within the program" to the public, according to the Cape Times/Independent Online. The report found that "[w]here there is strong leadership, as in the Western Cape and Guateng, there has been steady progress in the programs." However, the national government and some provincial governments have not provided the forum with requested information, according to the report (Smetherham, Cape Times/Independent Online, 9/14). Moreover, there are "major blockages" in rolling out treatment programs in some provinces, SAPA/Mail & Guardian reports (SAPA/Mail & Guardian, 9/13). Hassan added that the forum "wanted to work with" the government to "ensure the programs' success, rather than to be antagonistic," according to the Cape Times/Independent Online. The report further detailed the progress of the national ARV program in specific provinces (Cape Times/Independent Online, 9/14). A report released in July by TAC and ALP said that during the seven months after the plan was announced, fewer than 10,000 people had started treatment. The report claimed that a lack of political will and a shortage of antiretroviral drugs have impeded the rollout of South Africa's ARV program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/7).