Claiming that AIDS is "God's way of challenging South Africa," South African health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang last week announced the launch of a new faith-based AIDS initiative in Johannesburg, the South African Press Association reports. The new initiative, called "Faith in Action: A United Response to HIV/AIDS," seeks to stop the spread of the disease through counseling and the dissemination of information on stopping the spread of the virus, focusing strongly on abstinence and monogamy. Tshabalala-Msimang said the AIDS crisis is a "God-given opportunity for moral and spiritual growth, a time to review our assumptions about sin and morality."
AIDS advocates in South Africa have personally blamed Tshabalala-Msimang for failing to provide antiretroviral drugs for the general public. Members of the HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign last month filed charges of manslaughter against her and the nation's trade minister for failing to provide anti-HIV medications to the country's more than 4 million HIV-positive citizens. The charges were filed as part of the beginning of ongoing civil disobedience in the country to urge the government to provide free HIV/AIDS drugs in public hospitals and clinics.