South African AIDS Policy: a turnaround in sight?
Apparently the Toronto debacle is finally beginning to have an effect on local AIDS policy. Since Manto has been unofficially gagged and Deputy President Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has been made the official government spokesperson, policy seems to be changing.
Mlambo-Ngcuka has extended a hand to previously denounced AIDS organizations and activists, and has met with specialists with whom the government previously refused to consult. Said the deputy president:
We must tighten up so that ARV drugs are more accessible, especially to the poor. Education and prevention of HIV infection must be scaled up. Our people want us to unite on this issue in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of our nation. Working together we can defeat this disease.
According to TAC leader Zachie Achmat:
This is a serious, significant change. The government wants to work with us, not against us. By increasing the availability of drugs, particularly for preventing mother to child transmission, the government is going to save lives.
My opinion? It might be a turnaround, it might be so much political posturing in the face of international pressure. I’ll believe it when I see real results. But at the very least, the official word is no longer that ARVs are toxic, that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and that nutrition can replace medication. And regarding alternative remedies, she says that the government has “started the process of putting these so-called remedies under scientific scrutiny”.
It’s a start.