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Associated Press

Group Slams S. Africa on AIDS Crisis


CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- A leading international human rights group on Wednesday accused South Africa's president of neglect in tackling the AIDS epidemic sweeping his country.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged President Thabo Mbeki to take urgent action to slow the spread of AIDS. Mbeki has previously been accused of not being aggressive enough in handling the epidemic.

An independent study by the government's Medical Research Council found up to 7 million South Africans could die of AIDS by 2010, and called on the government to intervene more actively.

But the government has disputed the findings and refuses to make AIDS drugs available through the public health system, saying they are unaffordable and their safety has not been proven. In the past, Mbeki has questioned the link between HIV and AIDS, saying poverty and malnutrition also contribute to the epidemic's spread.

"The continued refusal of your government to ... support the provision of the low-cost treatment for prevention of mother-to-child transmission, along with public statements that sow confusion about the scientific basis for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, are acts of injustice against your people," said a letter from Human Rights Watch.

The human rights group said that while many governments were guilty of inaction in responding to AIDS, South Africa had gone one step further by actively undermining proven AIDS treatments.

The Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activists group, is suing the government to make AIDS drugs available through the public health system to HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies. The case is due to go to court on Monday.

The government has repeatedly said its response to the AIDS crisis has been appropriate.


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Information in this article was accurate in November 21, 2001. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.