Press Release
Health GAP Coalition
For Immediate Release
August 22, 2001

South African AIDS activists sue government Struggle to save lives extends from the streets to the courtroom

South Africa¹s Treatment Action Campaign filed a lawsuit Monday against the South Africa government, escalating their battle to win pregnant women access to nevirapine, a drug that cuts rates of HIV transmission from mother to infant.

South Africa has the largest number of HIV infected people of any country in the world‹4.68 million, or more than 10 per cent of the population. Hundreds of HIV positive newborns are born every day in South Africa as a result of HIV exposure at and around birth.

"The South African Government could have avoided this court case," said Asia Russell of the Health GAP Coalition. "Instead they are continuing to obstruct access to nevirapine, leaving tens of thousands to die preventable deaths." According to the South African Health Department, national HIV infection rates among pregnant women were 24.5% during 2000.

Access to nevirapine would prevent HIV infection for at least 20,000 infants born each year in South Africa. Nevirapine is available at no cost to the public sector for preventing transmission from mother to infant--but the South African government has refused to allow its widespread availability in the public sector.

250 South African health care providers joined with Treatment Action Campaign in lodging the lawsuit; the government has until September 12 to respond. Treatment Action Campaign will hold protests in South Africa on August 27 as a next step.

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is a South African grassroots organization dedicated to achieving affordable treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS and to preventing new HIV infections. For more information about the TAC, including their court papers, go to:

TAC contact people regarding this campaign:
Mark Heywood: +27 (83) 634 8806;
Sipho Mthathi: +27 21 685 1440;
Zamo Zwane: + 27 31 304 3673 / + 27 (82) 9291210

The Health GAP Coalition is a US-based organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to access to affordable life-sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS in poor countries.

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