The South African government's AIDS policies are failing, and it urgently needs to make drugs freely available, a report released this week by the South African Human Rights Commission said. SAHRC, a body appointed by parliament to monitor human and social rights, compiled the 533-page Fourth Annual Economic and Social Rights Report between 2000 and 2002 to review the government's progress in providing basic services.
"Despite the creation of one of the most comprehensive policies and enabling legislation in the world, South Africa has not succeeded in implementing these plans sufficiently to make an impact on the reduction of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS," stated the report.
SAHRC urged the department of health to "lobby vigorously" for a budget increase, since financial constraints remain a major obstacle. "A national action plan for the universal access to antiretrovirals should be the government's top priority and it is highly recommended that the national budget reflect this," the report said.
SAHRC urged the South African government to implement last year's Constitutional Court ruling that ordered it to provide antiretroviral drugs to pregnant HIV-positive women. Many departments, the report said, lagged in implementing court orders.
South Africa's government has not carried out the court order, according to Treatment Action Campaign, the AIDS lobby group that brought the court action against the state. To protest the state's failure to create a national treatment program, TAC recently embarked on a national civil disobedience campaign in which dozens of AIDS activists have been arrested for illegal protests. South Africa has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world, with 5 million HIV-infected people in a population of 44 million and about 600 people dying of AIDS every day.
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