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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
South Africa to supply Aids drug
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
Another setback for the government
South Africa's Constitutional Court has ruled that the government must supply a key anti-Aids drug to pregnant women while another court appeal is pending.

The drug, Nevirapine, has been at the centre of a bitter legal battle between the government and anti-Aids campaigners.

HIV-positive girl
President Mbeki does not believe HIV leads to Aids
It is known to cut the risk of HIV/Aids transmission from mother to child by up to 50%.

South Africa's government has so far prohibited the use of the drug beyond a pilot project, arguing that it is expensive to distribute and potentially dangerous.

The government is appealing against an earlier High Court ruling that it has a constitutional duty to supply the drug.

Struggling against Aids

The Constitutional Court has now confirmed last month's judgment by the High Court, which had also ruled that state hospitals with the necessary capacity should provide Nevirapine, and that they should not wait for the results of the government's next appeal.

South Africa, with an estimated one in nine people HIV-positive, has the largest infected population in the world.

But South African President Thabo Mbeki is not convinced that HIV leads to Aids.

Aids campaigners want all pregnant women to have access to the drug.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"The argument has raged for months"
See also:

25 Mar 02 | Africa
SA courts back anti-HIV drug
19 Feb 02 | Africa
ANC defends its Aids policy
17 Feb 02 | Africa
Mandela urges action on Aids
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