Friday, March 23, 2007

Some good news from South Africa - at long last

Here's good news from today's BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL. It's a copy-paste job really. I am tempted to go on raving again about human lives lost due to the unimaginable incompetence of the current South African minister for health prevention, Dr (Beetroot) Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, and, of course, the country's slightly paranoid President Thabo Mbeki, but what's the point... readers of this blog will know. So, here's the BMJ item:

South Africans to get AIDS plan

Pat Sidley


The South African government has finally introduced a full and far reaching plan to deal with its HIV/AIDS epidemic. But it will cost the country some 14bn rand (£970m; {euro}1.4bn; $1.9bn) over the next five years. This amount was not planned for in the present budget for the year ahead.

The plan aims to give antiretroviral treatment to up to 80% of people with AIDS who need the treatment; to halve the new infection rate by 2011; and to ensure that all pregnant women who are HIV positive have access to treatment to prevent transmission to their babies. The plan envisages better spending of the large donations that pour into the country, with the intention of strengthening the health system and using health staff more efficiently. The whole process will be properly evaluated and monitored.

Less than a year ago, Mr Mbeki's government followed the president's view that AIDS was a syndrome and that "a virus could not cause a syndrome." Mr Mbeki thought that the extent of disease in the country could be attributed to poverty. He voiced misgivings about white Western experts who claimed that AIDS originated in Africa as though Africans were dirty and immoral. And he presided over a cabinet which approved a product as a cure for AIDS that was later found to contain an industrial solvent (BMJ 1997; 314:450).

The health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who had a liver transplant earlier this month (15 March), has previously advocated the virtues of beetroot and garlic over antiretrovirals and appealed against court decisions fought for and won by the Treatment Action Campaign to compel the government to provide treatment (BMJ 2006,333:167)

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