South African Aids Plan Welcomed

World News
August 10, 2003

Aids activists in South Africa have cheered President Thabo Mbeki’s decision to distribute antiretroviral drugs to people diagnosed with HIV. But a visiting churchman who works there with children suffering from AIDS has questioned the South African Government’s ability to carry out its promise.

A dramatic introduction to President Thabo Mbeki’s address at a Women’s Day Rally in Pretoria – the stage collapsing around him, injuring one woman. Officials cleared away the debris to allow the celebrations to continue. Women at the rally expressed support for Mbeki’s decision to distribute antiretroviral drugs to people who are HIV positive.
BULELWA MZILENI, RALLY ATTENDEE: Actually I think it’s a good initiative from the government side. Women will benefit a lot, especially with the mother-child transmission of the virus. So at least we will get more babies which are HIV negative.

MAPULE MALIENE, RALLY ATTENDEE: Yeah, it’s right, but it’s a little bit too late. Otherwise it’s fine.

The move signals a significant shift in President Mbeki’s approach. In the past he’s refused to acknowledge that HIV and AIDS are even linked. But some still question Mbeki’s ability to carry out the new policy. David Royle is a microbiologist and pastor who works with South African children affected by HIV/AIDS. He and his wife have also fostered three children, two of whom are HIV positive.

PASTOR DAVID ROYLE, MORIEL MISSIONS, SOUTHERN AFRICA: Mbeki is an idiot, he’s a fool. I just don’t say this on my own. People in authority say this. He’s now changed his mind – I’m glad he has. But really, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Pastor Royle is currently in Australia to tell congregations of his plans to set up a village to enable AIDS orphans to live outside institutions. He questions the South African Government’s ability to cope with the costs of intensive medical care required to monitor the use of antiretroviral drugs. Although the United States last month pledged $15 billion to fight AIDS globally, South Africa estimates the drug treatments will cost around $4 billion a year there alone.

PASTOR DAVID ROYLE: That will equate to billions of rand, billions of Australian dollars and I do not believe that South Africa can afford it.

He says additional overseas aid would be required to carry out such a massive drug program.

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