South African Government Refuses To Set Announcement Date for Decision on National Antiretroviral Drug Program
Jacob Zuma, deputy president of the South African National AIDS Council, on Saturday announced that the South African government has reached an "advanced stage of dealing with the task team report" on a proposed national antiretroviral drug program for HIV/AIDS patients in state hospitals but could not announce when the government would make a decision, the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 6/14). The task team report said that the expanded antiretroviral drug program would cost the government about $1,100 per individual for each year of life but predicted that the cost would decrease "sharply" after a few years, which would allow the government to launch a program to distribute antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive residents nationwide (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/12). However, the South African government has "dragged its feet" on a decision on the program, according to Reuters (Chege, Reuters, 6/14). Zuma on Saturday said, "I will not try to invent dates. All of us recognize the urgency. We are responsible enough to move as swiftly as possible" (Associated Press, 6/14). Zuma made the announcement after meetings with the Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS advocacy group that has launched a civil disobedience campaign to demand that the government provide antiretroviral drugs to the public. The group suspended the campaign last month in anticipation of a favorable outcome to the meetings. Zackie Achmat, TAC chair, said, "We really are giving the government its last opportunity. I can tell you over the next few weeks, we will move heaven and earth to make sure we have a national treatment plan" (Reuters, 6/14).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.