South African Press Association (Johannesburg) - July 14, 2003
DA spokesman on HIV/Aids Mike Waters was reacting to the Treatment Action Campaign's release at the weekend of what the organisation said were key findings of the report, which have not been officially made public.
Among the findings are that 1.7-million lives can be saved by 2010 if the drugs are given to everyone needing them.
Waters said the DA endorsed the TAC's call for government to move urgently to implement a national antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme, and to publish the full report of the joint health and treasury task team on the cost effectiveness of this.
He said the published findings appeared to confirm the findings of previous studies that it would be more cost-effective to provide ARV treatment than not.
However, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's "failure of leadership" in the battle against the pandemic remained a serious concern.
"The delay in the consideration of the report by the Cabinet -- combined with the secrecy with which the minister has handled it -- suggests that she is looking for a reason not to implement an antiretroviral programme."
The fact that the minister had sent the report back to the task team with certain queries should not have stopped her from submitting it to Cabinet, accepting its recommendations in principle, and making the report public.
Earlier on Monday, the Government Communications Information System (GCIS) said the findings released by the TAC were from "a very first draft" of the report, which the organisation had already leaked to a newspaper several weeks ago.
GCIS said it seemed likely that because the issue would arise on Tuesday at the National Economic Development and Labour Council and because the TAC knew it would come before Cabinet soon, the organisation was trying "opportunistically" to place itself at the centre of attention.
"There is no need for theatrics in dealing with the matter of HIV and Aids: all of us need to cooperate in dealing with the comprehensive work required to fight the pandemic, an element of which is the issue of antiretroviral treatment."
Work was continuing on finalising the report for submission to Cabinet, and the matter was being treated "with the utmost urgency".
In releasing the findings, the TAC said it showed there was now no more justification for delaying a treatment programme.
It said the report found that the total cost of providing the drugs to all those needing them could be as much as R21,4-billion by 2010.
The activist group has sent the key findings to a host of organisations and politicians, along with a letter requesting they join the TAC in calling for an urgent meeting with government.
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