News 24, TAC slams slow Aids spending, 28 January 2004

Willemien Brëmmer

Cape Town - The Treatment Action Campaign wants to know what has happened to R90m that was set aside for the rolling out of antiretrovirals once the cabinet has approved a national Aids treatment plan.

Mark Heywood, national treasurer of the TAC, after a meeting of the organisation's executive committee on Tuesday said the R90m had still not been paid out.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel promised the money to the provinces for the rollout of antiretrovirals in the government's national Aids treatment plan, which had already been approved in November.

"We seriously doubt the politicians' commitment to make a success of the plan. Excluding the Western Cape, none of the provinces have made available free antiretrovirals to the public sector," Heywood said.

He slammed the national health department for its "completely unjustifiable neglect" to sign a tender for the provision of antiretrovirals.

"Government's neglect should not keep hospitals and clinics from prescribing these antiretrovirals to patients. The provinces' own budgets provide for the acquisition of the medicine."

Cannot sit back The TAC planned to obtain financing for the acquisition of antiretrovirals for institutions that were ready to start the treatment programme. "We cannot sit back and watch people die while doctors are actually ready to prescribe the medicine."

In a further attempt to counteract government's delay, the TAC planned to query government about the addendum to the operational Aids treatment plan accepted by cabinet.

This document, that was apparently left out of copies of the plan made available to the public, gave a time frame putting the plan in action.

The TAC on Tuesday also introduced a new campaign to improve health care services for the masses. This campaign would run in the private health sector.

Heywood said South Africa?s health services were "rotting".




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