SOUTH AFRICA'S ANC SAYS AIDS RULING 'DEFIES LOGIC'
By Wambui Chege
Reuters 20 March 2002
Johannesburg -- South Africa's ruling party condemned
on Wednesday a court order compelling the government to provide a key
anti-AIDS drug to women in childbirth, saying it
The African National Congress (ANC) said in a
10-page policy statement designed to clarify its policy on the use of drugs
to treat HIV/AIDS that courts should not determine
"We are convinced that it is incorrect for anyone to prescribe a specific
drug from the bench, let alone one whose efficacy is still under
investigation," ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said.
"Further, it is our view that the order to implement the court judgment
pending the constitutional ruling defies logic," he added.
A South African judge last week said the government could appeal
against a December court ruling obliging it to expand access to the
antiretroviral nevirapine to help prevent HIV-positive women from
passing the deadly virus to their babies.
But the judge ruled the government must provide nevirapine to any
woman who wants it while its appeal to the Constitutional Court was
The ANC also ruled out expanding existing pilot studies to allow all
HIV-positive pregnant women access to nevirapine, citing safety and cost
And it said victims of rape would not be given antiretrovirals at state
hospitals because the efficacy of the drugs had not been proved.
"We shall not be stampeded into precipitate action by pseudo-science, an
uncaring drive for profits or an opportunistic clamour for cheap
popularity," Ngonyama said.
Nevirapine is registered by the country's top medical authority for use in
preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.
International research shows a dose of nevirapine cuts infection by up to
50%. An estimated 70,000 to 100,000 babies are born HIV-positive every
year in the country, where one in nine people are said to carry the virus
that causes AIDS.
President Thabo Mbeki has been criticised at home and abroad for
questioning widely held findings about the disease, including whether HIV
The ANC's comments drew fire from the opposition Democratic Alliance
(DA), which said the government did not care about ordinary South
"The continued refusal to roll out an antiretroviral programme has dashed
the hope of many HIV-positive people as well as the 200 babies born
HIV-positive every day," DA official Sandy Kalyan said in a statement.