Back grey_arrow_rt.gif
Apartheid gov't had AIDS plan for South Africa
  JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's last white government had a detailed plan to fight AIDS but it was ignored by the country's new black rulers because it was "contaminated" by apartheid, former President F.W. de Klerk said on Monday.
"That action plan, as (with) so many other good action plans and policy documents, was left on the shelf to gather dust, because understandably, let me say understandably, there was a wish on the side of the ANC (African National Congress) to reinvent the wheel," the South African Press Association quoted de Klerk as telling a group of pharmaceutical wholesalers.
"Anything which came from the apartheid era was somehow or other contaminated. Because of allowing a very good action plan, which was already prepared, to gather dust, we've lost years in the fight against AIDS."
De Klerk did not detail what the plan might have been.
De Klerk's comments looked likely to throw a new twist into the bitter debate over AIDS in South Africa, where officials estimate more than 5 million of the country's 45 million people are infected with the deadly disease -- the biggest caseload in the world.
The ANC, which put an end to apartheid in 1994 when Nelson Mandela succeeded de Klerk and became the country's first black president, has been repeatedly accused of doing too little to fight the epidemic.
De Klerk, who resigned from the former apartheid National Party earlier this year when it merged with the ANC, noted in prepared comments that few people in South Africa in the 1980s imagined the toll that AIDS would take on the country.
"The disease has already reduced life expectation from 63 years in 1990 to only 47 now," de Klerk said, adding that an estimated 5.6 million South Africans, or 28 percent of the country's sexually active population, are HIV positive.
"Many of these people will die within the next 10 years and will leave behind them more than a million orphans," he said.
After years of protests by AIDS activists and warning by doctors, President Thabo Mbeki's government announced last year it would drop its long opposition to life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs in the public sector and begin making them available to the sick and the dying.
But the roll-out of the public drug programme has been slow, with a shortage of drugs and poor infrastructure hampering distribution -- leading to fresh charges by activists that the government is still not serious about fighting the epidemic.


Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.
  icon paper stack View Older Articles   Back to Top