MBEKI WARY OF AZT
I-Africa News Agency 29 Oct. 1999
The pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome and AIDS activists have
expressed surprise at claims by President Thabo Mbeki that the anti-AIDS
drug AZT could be harmful.
Speaking in the National Council of Provinces for the first time
since his inauguration in June, Mbeki dismissed calls for government to
make the drug available in public hospitals. He ordered Health Minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the South African medical authorities to
urgently establish the truth about AZT.
The President said legal cases are pending locally, in Britain and
America about the toxicity of AZT, and volumes of scientific literature
raise serious questions about the dangers it could pose to people's health.
The manufacturers of AZT, Glaxo Wellcome, say it has been registered
as a drug with the Medicines Control Council in South Africa for the last
ten years. It has also been approved for use by leading international
medical facilities. They deny that there are court cases pending against
the company, and are not aware of cases against the drug abroad.
AIDS activists agree that the drug has side effects, but say it
improves the quality of life of millions living with HIV and AIDS. They
likened AZT treatment to that of chemotherapy for cancer.
Meanwhile, police say they are unable to respond to Mbeki's
suggestion that there is no evidence to support their claim that only one
in every 36 rape cases is reported. A police spokesperson says they are
still studying the statement.
Mbeki said his government would fight AIDS and the terrible crime of
rape responsibly, but stressed that that meant action based on sound
evidence and substantiated figures.