South Africa's antiretroviral program runs into problems
June 04 2004 11:00 PM ET
The South African health ministry this week announced that no new patients will be able to receive HIV antiretroviral medications through its national drug program due to erratic medication supplies from pharmaceutical companies, Agence France-Presse reports. The announcement came one month after president Thabo Mbeki pledged to provide free anti-HIV drugs to 50,000 AIDS patients by 2005. Health minister spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said treatment programs across the nation are prohibited from enrolling new patients until they can confirm they have an adequate, steady supply of the medications from pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies say their firms have adequate supplies of the medications to ship to South Africa, but many haven't been asked to supply the drugs. The only problems that would arise would be if the companies were suddenly requested to ship massive quantities of the medications, said Kevin McKenna of drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim. Mark Heywood of the South African AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign accuses the government of falsely blaming the drug companies for the delay in launching the treatment program.