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Assist the Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS
Send a Letter to the South African Ambassador

December 4, 2001

Despite assurances from the World Health Organization that the benefits of using the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission greatly outweigh any potential adverse effects of the drug, and offers from a German drug manufacturer to provide the drug to the government for free, President Thabo Mbeki remains unyielding in the South African government's policy not to widely distribute the drug to pregnant, HIV-positive women.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is overwhelming Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa in particular. The UNAIDS 2001 Update on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic found that, "the country was experiencing one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world, with prevalence among pregnant women at 24.5% by the end of 2000."

Nevirapine belongs to a class of drugs called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNTRI). In clinical trials, this drug has been shown to dramatically reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. One dose of nevirapine given to the mother at the time of labor and delivery and another dose given to the child within 72 hours of birth has been demonstrated to reduce the rate of HIV transmission by up to 47%.

Approximately 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 17.6 million of those are women and 2.7 million are children under the age of 15 years. Clearly, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a global crisis that cannot be won if it is not addressed by all nations with a comprehensive strategy of prevention, treatment, care, and scientific research to find a vaccine and a cure. With 4.7 million people living with AIDS and 70,000 babies being born HIV positive every year, the South African government must take advantage of any and every means to fight the epidemic.

During this time of global focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, you can help increase the pressure on the South African government to reverse its ineffective policy by sending a letter to the South African Embassy expressing your concern. With your letter, we can help the mothers of South Africa win a small battle in the war against HIV/AIDS.

For further information or an electronic copy of the sample letter, please go to the AIDS Action website at www.aidsaction.org.

Take AIDS Action

Send your version of the letter to South African Ambassador Sheila Sisulu and express support for expanded nevirapine distribution to infected mothers in South Africa.


Sample Letter

November 30, 2001

Her Excellency Sheila Sisulu
South African Ambassador to the United States
3051 Massachusetts Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Ambassador Sisulu:

I am writing to strongly encourage the South African government to support the nationwide expansion of its 18 pilot programs aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV through the use of nevirapine.

Nevirapine belongs to a class of drugs called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNTRI). In clinical trials, this drug has been shown to dramatically reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. One dose of nevirapine given to the mother at the time of labor and delivery and another dose given to the child within 72 hours of birth has been demonstrated to reduce the rate of HIV transmission by up to 47%.

It is our understanding that the South African government refuses to distribute nevirapine nationwide despite an offer by the German-based pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim to provide the drug for free. The opportunity to reduce HIV rates in your country while not expending limited national resources must be taken full advantage of. Unfortunately under the current pilot programs, only 10% of HIV-positive, expectant mothers in South Africa have access to nevirapine.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a global crisis that cannot be won if it is not addressed by all nations with a comprehensive strategy of treatment, care, prevention, and scientific research to find a cure. With 4.7 million South Africans living with AIDS and 70,000 babies being born HIV positive every year, the South African government must take advantage of any and every means to fight the epidemic and provide hope and life to its citizens.

In closing, I urge you and the South African government to expedite the expansion of the current nevirapine pilot programs, making this important drug available to all pregnant, HIV-positive women in South Africa.

Sincerely,





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