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Source: Democratic Alliance
Title: T Leon: “Across the nation, the ANC has broken its
promises on HIV/Aids”
TEMBISA, GAUTENG – THURSDAY 25 MARCH 2004 South Africa
must take urgent action to care for the 700 000 Aids orphans in our
country today, and to prevent more children from losing their
parents to Aids.
That is why the Coalition for Change is so important today. The
Democratic Alliance and the Inkatha Freedom Party have led the way
in the fight against HIV/Aids.
Last year, UNICEF estimated that there were 662 000 Aids orphans in
South Africa. That number continues to rise, largely because of the
ANC government’s failure to launch a national rollout of
Here in Tembisa, we have seen how the Good Hope Centre is caring
for Aids orphans, as well as other people living with Aids. Twelve
Aids orphans live in the centre itself.
Flora Mohano, who directs the Good Hope Centre, receives no fixed
income for her work. She does it out of compassion and
But there are hundreds of thousands more Aids orphans that have not
yet been reached. Many are forced to lead their families and raise
their own siblings.
Few of these children receive any kind of assistance from the
government. Aids orphans, in fact, are falling through the cracks
of South Africa’s social grant system.
Since only a parent or guardian over the age of 18 can claim the
child support grant, orphaned children are excluded. In the case of
the foster care grant, a child has to be formally placed in foster
care through the children’s court before the grant is
This process is cumbersome enough for families that are headed by
an adult. For child-headed households it is an impossible
Through parliamentary questions, the Democratic Alliance
established last year that only 21 percent of orphaned children are
able to access foster child grants.
The DA has suggested new and creative solutions for addressing the
needs of Aids orphans. We believe that Orphan Support Committees
should be created across South Africa to provide free services to
orphans in order to help them obtain grants, gain access to
education, and receive trauma counselling and support. We have also
suggested legislation that would enable orphans under the age of 18
to access the child support grant.
We do not want to create a system of entitlements that will
encourage children to head their own families. But we must begin to
build a social safety net that can help children in desperate
Experts predict that by 2015, the number of Aids orphans in South
Africa will grow to over 1,85-million. We can quote other estimates
that are higher or lower. But we must remember that behind each
statistic is a human being, a child vulnerable to the dangers of
life on the streets, a child needing love and support. That is
where places like the Good Hope Centre have such an important role
While we care for Aids orphans, we must also fight the disease
itself. And that means that we must provide people with the
anti-retroviral medicines that they so desperately need.
There is no cure for Aids. But anti-retrovirals can turn a death
sentence into a new lease on life.
In 2002, there were approximately 1,5 million HIV-infected people
living in Gauteng. Recently, the Gauteng provincial government
announced that it would begin to supply anti-retroviral drugs at
provincial hospitals beginning on 1 April.
The Democratic Alliance welcomes this programme. It is long
overdue. We wonder why it has taken the provincial government so
long, and why it is introducing Aids drugs right before the
Across the nation, the ANC has broken its promises on Aids. The ANC
government announced in November that it would provide
anti-retrovirals to 53 000 HIV-positive people by 31 March 2004,
and over 180 000 people by 31 March 2005. However, now the ANC
admits that it will not meet these targets.
Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, after being prompted
by repeated threats of legal action, has finally announced after a
Minmec meeting that she will allow the government to purchase an
interim supply of anti-retroviral drugs. This, she promises, will
enable facilities that are ready to provide the drugs to do so
without waiting for the government’s ever-delayed tender
process to be finalised.
Whether the Minister will finally keep one of her promises remains
to be seen.
She promised in November that in addition to beginning a rollout of
anti-retrovirals by March, she would provide CD4 counts for over
200,000 people, recruit 1 786 new staff, and provide nutritional
support for defined patient groups by April 2004. None of these
promises are on track. They are all being broken.
Last month the Minister announced that she would “wean our
people from anti-retrovirals”—and this, of course, long
before any roll-out had even begun.
Now the Minister is attacking pharmaceutical companies that provide
anti-Aids drugs. These companies are upset at the way she is
proposing to use regulations to fix the prices of drugs.
The price of medicine has become far too high, but the way to
control the problem is not to fix prices but to increase
competition in the market, and to exempt drugs on the Essential
Drugs list from Value Added Tax.
The DA warned the Minister back in January that her top-down
approach could have negative results for South African patients.
Our predictions may, sadly, be coming true.
The government promised a roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs in
August 2003. That was more than seven months ago. The people of
South Africa are still waiting.
It remains clear that the best hope for people living with HIV/Aids
is to be resident in a province where a party other than the ANC is
in government, or where the ANC faces significant and real
It is no accident that the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the
first two provinces to take the lead on providing Aids drugs.
Gauteng, where the DA and IFP both have a strong presence, has
We must recognise that we are now fighting an all-out war against
HIV/Aids, in which more than a million of our compatriots have
died. To win this war, we must mobilise every resource that we
The Coalition for Change that stands here today has a proven track
record in fighting HIV/Aids. And from the front lines, we can tell
you that this is not a war that can be won with weapons or
diplomacy. It must be won with medicine, with education, and most
of all with love.
South Africa’s challenge in the years ahead is a great one
indeed. The disease has already infected so many millions, and we
are working with very limited resources. But we can do it.
South Africa has triumphed over difficult odds before. With the
right leadership in place, we will do so again.