PRESIDENT MBEKI QUESTIONS AZT
S.Africa's Mbeki says investigating AZT safety
Reuters 28 Oct. 1999
CAPE TOWN - South African President Thabo Mbeki, under
pressure to supply the anti-AIDS drug AZT to thousands of rape victims
in the country, said on Thursday his government was investigating
whether the drug was safe to use.
"There...exists a large volume of scientific literature alleging, among
other things, the toxicity of this drug is such that it is in fact a
danger to health,'' he told parliament's second chamber, the National
Council of the Provinces.
"I have therefore asked the Minister of Health...to go into all these
matters so that...we ourselves, including our country's medical
authorities, are certain of where the truth lies,'' he added.
Mbeki also said there were legal cases pending against the drug,
supposed to halve mother-to-foetus transmission of HIV that precedes
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as well as retarding the
development of the disease.
It is also credited with reducing the chances of infection following
rape which has reached crisis proportions in South Africa, with one
reported on average every 12 minutes.
"One rape is a rape too many,'' Mbeki said. "Through our concerted
action, we must make this clear to all who carry out this terrible
Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday the South African Law
Commission was studying the human rights implications and feasibility of
chemically castrating repeat rapists.
The government has been under pressure for some time to provide AZT free
of charge and automatically to rape victims in a country where one in
eight of the adult population is infected with the disease.
However, to date it has refused to do so on the grounds of the crushing
cost burden this would place on the state's already overstretched
Mbeki's reference to medical doubts about the efficacy of the drug
represented the opening of a new front in the government's defence of