South African AIDS activists leak government report
Members of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign leaked a secret government report on the possible impact of treating the nation's 5 million HIV-positive citizens to politicians, trade unions, and other AIDS activists in an effort to further pressure the government to begin paying for anti-HIV drug therapy. The report, prepared by officials from the health and finance ministries but never released, showed that the lives of more than 1.7 million of the country's HIV-positive people could be saved by 2010 if anti-HIV medications were made available immediately. Even if only half of the nation's HIV patients were treated, 733,000 lives could be saved by 2010, according to the report. The leaked report indicated that a universal treatment program would cost about $2.2 billion per year today, rising up to $2.8 billion by the end of the decade. The South African government has resisted establishing a widespread HIV treatment program in the country, claiming that such a program would exceed the nation's annual health budget. South African president Thabo Mbeki also has publicly questioned the effectiveness of anti-HIV medications, even referring to them as too toxic to give to the nation's HIV-positive population.