South Africa Announces Increase in AIDS Funds

South Africa's finance minister said Wednesday the government will spend more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next three years to double the number of people receiving AIDS medication.

BY admin

February 22 2008 1:00 AM ET

South Africa's
finance minister said Wednesday the government will spend
more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next three
years to double the number of people receiving AIDS
medication.

Trevor Manuel,
presenting his ministry's budget, said South Africa would
spend an additional $274 million by 2011 to allow an extra
half million people with the AIDS virus to access
antiretroviral treatment. That would bring the
nation's total of HIV-positive people with access to
treatment to about 900,000.

Mark Heywood of
the AIDS Law Project welcomed Manuel's new spending plan
but estimated that even with the additional money, about
500,000 people in need of treatment in 2011 still
would not receive it.

South Africa has
5.4 million people with HIV or AIDS, the most in the
world. Every day, nearly 1,000 people there die of AIDS and
another 1,000 are infected. The social and economic
costs to the country are immeasurable.

Critics blame
President Thabo Mbeki and his health minister, Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang, for the scale of the crisis.

After much delay,
Tshabalala-Msimang earlier this month published
guidelines for preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission
by using a combination of two drugs -- nevirapine and
AZT -- in accordance with long-standing World Health
Organization recommendations.

But in a sign of
the health ministry's ambiguous attitude toward use of
medication, a doctor in the hardest-hit province of
KwaZulu-Natal was temporarily suspended earlier this
month for giving the treatment to pregnant women in
his care without awaiting official approval.

The case caused
an uproar, with hundreds of health professionals signing
a petition demanding that the doctor, Colin Pfaff, be
reinstated. Pfaff said Wednesday that hospital
authorities told him the charges had been dropped.

''In many ways
the work has only just begun,'' wrote Pfaff, who works in
an area where nearly 40% of pregnant women carry the virus.
''I really hope that with dual therapy now approved
... many more babies' lives may be saved.'' (AP)

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