Aids drug battle to be settled in court

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The Independent Online

The South African government could be taken to court over its refusal to give anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive mothers in childbirth

The South African government could be taken to court over its refusal to give anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive mothers in childbirth

Campaigners claimed yesterday that withholding the drugs - which are believed to reduce transmission of the virus - breaches the constitution. The widespread distribution to adults of life-prolonging anti-retrovirals is unlikely to happen in Africa because of the cost, but scientists claim newly-borns can be protected through a single dose of the drug AZT.

Mark Heywood, of the Aids Law Project in Johannesburg, said campaigners would ask the High Court to set a time limit for the government to implement a drug programme. He said: "Last year, the Health Minister was telling us she was committed to using AZT as long as the money could be found. Her successor said she was waiting for local trial results. On 12 July the results came through, and they were positive, but an announcement has not been forthcoming."

According to United Nations figures published last month, half of all South African teenagers will die of Aids-related illnesses.

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