Aids Activists to Launch Protest
East African Standard (Nairobi)
March 21, 2003
Posted to the web March 20, 2003
South African Aids activists said
yesterday they would start a nation-wide civil disobedience
campaign to try to force the government to provide
life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs.
The campaign, which starts on Friday,
could be the most serious confrontation yet over the
government's controversial Aids policy, which activists say
causes 600 deaths a day.
South Africa has the highest number of
people living with HIV in the world but the government refuses
to provide anti-retroviral drugs through State hospitals,
saying they are too expensive and toxic.
"We are launching the civil
disobedience campaign on Friday because the government has
refused to provide anti-retrovirals. It is not doing anything,
it is letting its people die," said Pholokgolo Ramothwala,
an official of the leading Aids lobby group Treatment Action
TAC hopes the protest will force the
government to agree to a basic framework for treatment and
prevention that includes state-funded anti-Aids drugs.
The government said yesterday a joint
team from the health and finance ministries was evaluating the
cost of a government-funded anti-retroviral treatment
"For this reason, amongst others,
the discussions started in September 2000, could not (be)
concluded," the government said in a statement.
President Thabo Mbeki has been
criticised at home and abroad for questioning the link between
HIV and Aids. Analysts say his doubts on the efficacy of anti-retrovirals
have played a major role in influencing government policy.
Finance Minister Trevor Manuel muddied
the waters further on Tuesday when he described the demands
for anti-retroviral drugs as "a lot of voodoo".
TAC did not give details of its campaign
but protests are likely to include legal action against the
government for failing to provide the drugs. The giant
Congress of South African Trade Unions has threatened to join
the protest. -Reuters