Key AIDS Drug to be Made Available in Some South African Hospitals
Associated Press via CDC Prevention News Update
Coming soon to South Africa: A drug that reduces the chances of HIV-positive pregnant women transmitting the virus to their children at birth.
The following appears with permission from For further information click here
CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Monday Jan 22, 2002
A key AIDS drug that reduces the chances of HIV-positive
pregnant women transmitting the virus to their children at birth
will be made available in the South African province hardest hit
by AIDS, an official said Monday. The decision to make nevirapine
available at public hospitals in the eastern province of KwaZulu-
Natal flies in the face of a national health department directive
restricting the drug's use to a few pilot sites.
Nevirapine is approved by the World Health Organization, and
studies show it can reduce the rate of mother-to-child HIV
infections by up to 50 percent. But the South African government
maintains its safety remains unproven and inadequate structures
are in place to administer it. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Lionel
Mtshali said he took the decision to make nevirapine available on
principle, because it was "a pregnant woman's prerogative to
save her child from contracting the AIDS virus," the South
African Press Association reported.
KwaZulu-Natal, which is controlled by the Zulu nationalist
Inkatha Freedom Party, is the second province to make nevirapine
available in public hospitals. Government studies indicate more
than one in three people in KwaZulu-Natal are HIV-positive. In
2000, health officials began distributing the drug in the Western
Cape, which was then controlled by the main opposition, the
Democratic Alliance. Mtshali said his province has an obligation
to supply AIDS drugs to pregnant mothers. "A mother who is
already afflicted by an incurable disease should not have to
contend with a hopeless situation of her unborn child facing the
same affliction if it can be prevented," he said.