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AIDS Drug Ruling Upheld in S. Africa

Health: Government must distribute medicine now, pending appeal.

April 05, 2002|From Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The South African government's AIDS program suffered another legal defeat Thursday when the Constitutional Court upheld a ruling forcing officials to immediately begin distributing a key drug to HIV-infected pregnant women.

The government, which has come under criticism for its often confusing approach to fighting AIDS, had resisted creating a widespread program to provide the drug nevirapine to HIV-infected pregnant women. The drug has been shown to severely reduce a woman's chances of passing the virus to her baby during labor.

A High Court judge ruled in December that South Africa must begin a nationwide nevirapine program. The judge also ruled that the government must make the drug available at health institutions with the capacity to administer it even as it appeals the ruling.

The High Court last week said the government should not be allowed to appeal that part of the ruling and must make the drug available immediately.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court agreed, refusing to hear the government's appeal on that section. The government will be allowed to appeal the entire ruling at a hearing in May.

The court said it would explain its Thursday decision then.

The government is providing the drug at 18 pilot sites across the country, saying that more study is needed before it expands the program nationwide and that it does not have the proper infrastructure for a larger program.

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