AIDS activists in South Africa have given the country's government a four-month ultimatum to begin offering anti-HIV drugs to some of the nation's 4 million HIV-positive residents or face an ongoing civil disobedience campaign, Agence France-Presse reports. Treatment Action Campaign spokesman Nathan Geffen said TAC will begin a nationwide civil disobedience campaign if an HIV antiretroviral program is not initiated by the end of February. "This will include sit-ins, hunger strikes, the illegal importation of medicine, and the illegal distribution of medicine," he said.
Geffen said TAC originally planned to start the campaign on Worlds AIDS Day on December 1 but, after a meeting with South African deputy president Jacob Zuma, decided to hold off until February. TAC expects the antiretroviral program to be gradually rolled out and to have enrolled the first 100,000 people by March 2004.
Health officials in South Africa have resisted providing anti-HIV medications to the nation's HIV-positive people because they say the drugs are too expensive to issue free of charge. South African president Thabo Mbeki also has stated that he believes some anti-HIV medications don't work and may actually be too toxic to give to the nation's AIDS sufferers.