South African AIDS activists on Tuesday called off a civil disobedience campaign launched in late March to urge the government to begin providing anti-HIV medications to the nation's estimated 5 million HIV-positive residents, Agence France-Presse reports. The organizers of the campaign say they are meeting in May with government officials to try to formulate a widespread treatment program. Mark Heywood, spokesman for the Treatment Action Campaign, said TAC decided to suspend all public protests until the meeting, scheduled for May 17.
"We have decided to suspend our civil disobedience campaign in the interest of ensuring the fullest opportunity for government to prove its good faith and to demonstrate that the TAC's campaign was about saving lives," Heywood said.
The civil disobedience campaign included activists leveling homicide charges against health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and trade minister Alec Erwin. The charges claimed that the ministers were causing 600 deaths per day by not providing anti-HIV medications to the country's AIDS sufferers. South Africa has the largest number of HIV-positive people in the world. More than 360,000 people died of AIDS-related complications in South Africa in 2001.