MANDELA URGES SOUTH AFRICA TO CHANGE AIDS STANCE
Reuters 7 March 2002
Johannesburg -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela
warned on Thursday that people would die "in scores every day" if the
government continued to block access to key HIV/AIDS drugs.
At a modest public clinic in the black township of Soweto outside
Johannesburg, Mandela also came his closest yet to publicly
criticizing his successor Thabo Mbeki's controversial stance on the
Though Mandela has been cautious in criticizing the current
leadership, he has urged government to allow people, especially
pregnant women, access to HIV/AIDS drugs at state hospitals.
"If the government says, 'don't make any move until we have completed
our research,' young people and babies are going to die in scores
every day," Mandela said at the clinic.
"The government must allow people, while it conducts its research, to
go anywhere they want (to get drug treatment). If we do that, we will
remove the perception that we don't care about our people who are
dying," he added.
The government refuses to broaden access to the drug nevirapine beyond
a handful of pilot studies, citing cost and safety grounds. AIDS
activists dismiss the concerns.
Nevirapine is registered by the country's top medical authority for
use in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, and its German
manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim has offered it to the South African
government free of charge for 5 years.
Mbeki has also been criticized for doubting the fact that HIV causes
Without mentioning Mbeki in name, Mandela appealed for a change in
"It is necessary to be broadminded and not feel that your ego is being
attacked," Mandela said.
Relations between Mandela and Mbeki have been strained by the AIDS
issue, culminating in a meeting earlier this month between Mandela and
Mbeki's most trusted political allies to try to iron out their
Critics of South Africa's AIDS policy say Mbeki's personal views have
blunted government's response to the epidemic gripping the country.
This is despite South Africa having more people living with HIV/AIDS
than any other country in the world, with an estimated 5 million
Mandela was accompanied in his visit to Soweto by former US President
Jimmy Carter and William Gates Sr., the father of Microsoft founder