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S. Africa Province Makes AIDS Drug Available to Moms

January 22, 2002|Associated Press

DURBAN, South Africa — A key AIDS drug that reduces the chances of HIV-positive pregnant mothers transmitting the virus to their children at birth is to be made available in South Africa's most AIDS-stricken province, an official said Monday.

The decision to make the drug available at public hospitals in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, which is controlled by the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party, runs counter to 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 infection by up to 50%. But the South African government says that its safety remains unproven and that inadequate structures are in place to administer it.

Government studies indicate more than one in three people in KwaZulu-Natal are HIV-positive.

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