South Africa has agreed to introduce anti-retroviral drugs to treat people who are HIV positive following protests by Aids campaigners.
The government's decision was made after a special meeting to discuss the issue of Aids treatment.
The country's Department of Health has now been given until the end of September to develop a plan giving details of when and how the drugs will be made available.
Should anti-retrovirals be made available to everyone who needs them in South Africa or is the government right to be cautious? Should Africans across the continent have greater access to these drugs?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
If all the governments in the world would stop spending money on useless things such as missiles, terrorism, etc. And actually work together to help people in need, then this could clearly work out. I reckon that these anti-retroviral drugs should be given to the people, even if it costs the governments a lot of money. They can spare some money of the military that causes nothing but murder, and give it to people in need.
Contrary to what some postings say, it will cost the world's governments billions of pounds to treat AIDS and other preventable diseases even if drug prices drop. Those who engage in high-risk behaviour given today's freely-available information (radio, TV, print) defy reason.
South Africa is in dire straits with regards to HIV, and for the sake the country drugs should be available. Many people are quick to blame the prices drug companies put on these drugs but they fail to realize that the creation of these drugs cost hundreds of millions of dollars. If a company is not able to make a profit developing AIDS drugs, no more will be developed. So yes generic drugs will help now but probably not in the future when AIDS becomes resistant to the ones currently on the market because drug companies will not longer develop them if they aren't able to profit. It's a catch-22.
The ignorance on the subject of AIDS is apparent even on this page. Give the drugs to stop the spread of the disease screams one writer. What hope is there when there are people who believe this sort of rubbish. The only way to stop the spread of AIDS is for the infected to stop injecting it via needle or penis into anybody else. Education and screening is the only way. Drugs are only temporary until the virus becomes immune to it.
Not only should the drugs be made available in South Africa, but in any place in the world they are needed free of charge. It says a lot about governments that they will spend Billions on weapons to take lives: but pennies to save lives.
Through the indiscriminate use of these drugs, a whole other, much more virulent and insidious virus will evolve. These drugs are not a panacea; they are a control mechanism. The microbiologists are contributing to the efficacy of the very target of their eradication efforts. This is extremely threatening for the future. AIDS is 100% preventable! It takes personal responsibility, something humans want to ignore.
I think all the governments. should put special subsidies on all the drugs that are expensive; that includes aids drugs, and there should be better access to these drugs surely, by this way scientists can conduct their research more efficiently.
First of all, we have to make clear that AIDS is a disaster having catastrophic effects on all humankind. It is a moral responsibility especially for well-off countries to help those poor people entangled with this disgusting illness. Everyone deserves better living conditions, life standards and a life to live with all its beauties. We live in the same world; we can't be ignorant of those people dying each passing day in pains. There shouldn't be any concern or doubt whether we have to give a hand to them. We must.
Yes, yes, a million times yes! Pharmaceutical companies will scream bloody murder about all of this, trying to protect the cash cow that HIV has become for them. Developed nations, and African governments, can no longer ignore the catastrophe that is AIDS in Africa. History will judge how we have handled this crisis and thus far, we have so much to answer for.
Ralph Zema, Houston, TX USA
By all means Aids patients' treatments should include access to effective drugs. I am not in favour of throwing the latest expensive experimental drug at the problem in order for politicians to take credit for "addressing the problem." My greatest wish for future potential Aids victims is for a drug which causes sexually promiscuous people to keep their pants on.
I think that everybody needs to be healed when he gets ill or sick. SA government had been taken a better way for authorising retroviral drug using by positive people. And government doesn't stay at this level; it'll all people to get these drugs.
There should be a two pronged approach to the AIDS pandemic. First prolong the life expectency of the people who are already affected by giving them better and free access to drugs. The second and the most important thing is, to educate the masses sothat they can practice safe sex!It is a difficult task. But prevention is better than cure!
Srinivsan Toft, Denmark
"Should anti-retroviral be made available to everyone who needs them in South Africa...?" Just ask the victims who are suffering and dying. If the prime minister or someone in his family was afflicted, we'd see how fast he changed his tune.
Given the explosion of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa I agree that these drugs are vital in stopping the spread of the disease. However, I believe that all attempts to make the retroviral drugs available should be coupled with mandatory education programs for AIDS Prevention.
Drugs are not the answer to the AIDS epidemic. Sure, they can slow the spread of the disease. But the real answer lies in the behaviour of people. Everyone wants a quick and easy answer from drugs when the real answer is sitting in front of them all along. People who do not engage in risky behaviour have a miniscule chance of contracting the virus. Unfortunately most people don't want to hear that because it places the responsibility squarely on the individual and not the convenient target of governments or corporations.
Access to aids drugs in Africa should be as easy as going to the chemist and purchasing them. The argument that the public purse should pay for these drugs is inane. Making everyone responsible for a derelict lifestyle is just not on, it is not a singular government responsibility, it is merely one of the many government responsibilities to which they must tend, and decidedly not at the expense of all else.
Des Currie, Umdloti, South Africa
When it comes to saving human lives, of course there should be better access to these drugs. If governments around the world took a humanitarian point of view instead of party politics and maybe introduce legislation to make generic HIV drugs available then we can help people live longer. Also, it's about time that drug companies put an end to their greed and do something to make these drugs affordable and generic.
Scarce resources is not an argument in matters such as the provision of life saving and life enhancing pharmaceuticals and medical treatment. It is only the scarcity of the artificial constraint of money that permeates the system from beginning to end. We must remember that there are no "natural laws" of economics, but only those created by what amounts to human cruelty and insanity directed against other human beings.
Robert Morpheal, Canada
Of course South Africans should have access to these drugs. How can a concept like 'It is the South Africa government right to be cautious' even be contemplated? Are no other countries utilizing these drugs to care for their infected population? Why should South Africa be different? Furthermore, why can't South Africans buy or import drugs to fight HIV from India? These drugs are just as good as the USA's but fantastically cheaper. It's my belief that the mighty USA pharmaceutical conglomerates have taken measures to prevent this from happening. What horror future generations will find when reading the global history of our times.
Definitely. The South African government needs to give a little bit more to their people in distress. Sometimes individuals need a little bit more of a push to give them just the right healing. If the South African government doesn't take care of their people in need, then someone else should be in charge.
Jennie Buoy, USA
Anti-retrovirals should be available to everyone who needs them not only in South Africa, but throughout the continent. I think it is the responsibility of governments to seek the welfare of HIV/Aids victims by providing these drugs. Some African governments may argue that they cannot afford the enormous cost involved in making these drugs available yet they seek loans/grants/aids for grandiose development projects.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leone
I am always wondering why the South African government is against anti-Aids drugs. I think it is very important to have access for Aids drugs in Africa but also not to rely so much on drugs. Remember, education is the number one key to prevent the spread of Aids.
I don't know much about these drugs but one thing is for sure that they are there to save lives and it is only possible if people get access; make money some other time, in some other country because these people could afford to die but not to buy these drugs.
Kaleem Khan, India
In North America and Europe, most of the Aids patients have access to these drugs through government or NGO sponsored programmes. It is unfortunate that others could not have similar access. One cannot simply blame the governments of the developing countries for not providing the needed drugs for all. Only a global effort can ease the burden on these governments. Multinational drug companies and wealthier nations should collectively contribute to this effort. President Bush's allocation of $15 billon to fight Aids in his next budget is a step in the right direction.
The Aids epidemic in South Africa can only get progressively worse unless there is internal and international backing for anti-retroviral medications. After spending the last five months in South Africa, I realized that Aids is clearly a consummate part of most people's daily lives, regardless of whether or not they are HIV positive. At a large Aids march on Valentine's Day, people of all races and ages passionately chanted a slogan that best summarizes the state of the country: "We care for the infected, because we're all affected."