SAPA 3 Dec. 2001

The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) criticised the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on Sunday for taking the government to court over the use of Nevirapine.

"The NEC viewed as unfortunate the court case brought against government by the TAC," an African National Congress statement on the weekend's NEC meeting said.

"The meeting agreed government's approach to mother-to-child transmission of HIV is correct, given that so little is currently known about the longer term effects of the drug."

The AIDS lobbyists launched a court application in the Pretoria High Court last month to force the government into making Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant woman.

The NEC also expressed concern over "the extent of infrastructure and resources required to administer it (Nevirapine) and the level of counselling and monitoring required to ensure its potential benefits are not reversed".

"The ANC is committed to treatment programmes which are responsible, effective and sustainable," the NEC said.

The statement said the meeting endorsed government's strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.

"It reiterated that government's strategy should be based on the assumption that HIV causes AIDS.

"It further supported ongoing scientific enquiry to address the many areas in which our knowledge of the syndrome, its development and its treatment are still deficient."

The NEC welcomed the fact that HIV/AIDS was being widely debated which created more awareness about the disease.

However, it cautioned against generating mass hysteria about the pandemic.

"Much of the debate was characterised by misinformation; oversimplification, particularly around the complexities of treatment; and, from some quarters, the wilful encouragement of hysteria."

The NEC also discussed the new co-operation agreement with the New National Party, saying it welcomed the development.

"The meeting viewed co-operation with the NNP as an important step in the political evolution of South Africa, and a welcome opportunity to challenge the racial divisions which characterise South African politics."

The NEC appointed Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as the ANC's chief whip in the National Assembly.

He will take over from deputy chief whip Geoff Doidge who has been serving as acting chief whip since the resignation of Tony Yengeni in October.