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Sunday, 17 February, 2002, 13:31 GMT
Mandela urges action on Aids
Nelson Mandela
Mandela: To meet ANC leaders on Monday
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has issued his strongest call yet for a campaign to tackle the Aids epidemic.

We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying

Nelson Mandela
In an interview with the Johannesburg Sunday Times to mark the 12th anniversary of his release from prison, Mr Mandela said the time had come for action rather than just talk while people were dying.

"This is a war, it has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars," he said.

"We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying."

Mr Mandela's successor, Thabo Mbeki, has come under fierce criticism for questioning the link between Aids and HIV and for refusing to make drugs available that help prevent mother-child transmission of the virus.

Source: Medical Research Council
Mr Mandela stopped short of criticising Mr Mbeki personally, but admitted differences had resulted in a cooling of relations between himself and leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The newspaper said Mr Mandela was to discuss the issue with senior ANC officials on Monday, whom he believed would listen to sound advice.

"I have no doubt that we have a reasonable and intelligent government, and that if we intensify this debate inside, they will be able to resolve it," he said.

Controversial handling

The government is resisting mounting pressure to make the drug Nevirapine readily available at hospitals and ante-natal clinics throughout the country.

South African Aids patient
11% of South Africans have Aids
Currently, only about 10% of HIV-positive pregnant women in South Africa have access to the medication, which can save their babies from infection.

Aids campaign groups in South Africa blame this on Mr Mbeki's controversial handling of the crisis - he has queried the link between HIV and Aids, and dubbed anti-retroviral drugs dangerous.

South Africa has the single biggest HIV-positive population in the world, estimated at five million or 11% of its population.

See also:

08 Feb 02 | Africa
Boost for Africa Aids funding
08 Feb 02 | Africa
South Africa awaits Mbeki speech
07 Feb 02 | Africa
Mandela urges 'war' on HIV
19 Dec 01 | Africa
SA to fight Aids drug ruling
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