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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Aids Activists to Launch Protest


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 Campaign (TAC).

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 programme.

"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