SOUTH AFRICA: ARV drug rollout urgently needed, says lobby group
TAC has campaigned for the state to provide ARVs
JOHANNESBURG, 25 February (PLUSNEWS) - The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa's vocal AIDS lobby group, on Tuesday offered to work with the government to ensure the urgent rollout of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to people living with HIV.
"We want to work with the government at every level to save lives, to make sure that people get treatment and care," TAC spokesperson Mark Heywood said at a public meeting of stakeholders at Johannesburg City Hall.
"We request a discussion with you outside of this meeting today, so that you can tell us what we can do to make it a reality," he told the members of government attending.
The government's "Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care", agreed by cabinet in November last year, aims at preventing over 1.5 million AIDS deaths by 2008 through the provision of free ARV drugs through the public health system.
"The problems we see in the plan include the fact that there is no ...[provision] for people in urgent need of antiretroviral treatment - people who are dying now. And we are very concerned that the accreditation procedures for sites [where ARVs can be dispensed] are taking too long, and are too strict," said Heywood.
"We've got to start, and start now. We are ready to work with you on treatment literacy campaigns, treatment support, anti-stigma campaigns,better health service, support and monitoring treatment sites and provincial governments," Heywood told the officials present. "This is not meant to be confrontational - but we will be watching."
In response, Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa outlined what the provincial government had done so far and indicated the way forward. "Our plan is that we will present to the [South African National] AIDS council on March 9th. The [ARV] rollout will begin shortly after that. We are also interested in meeting with the TAC outside of this forum."
According to the provincial government, 77,000 more people will develop AIDS this year.