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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 17:12 GMT
SA health minister harassed
Aids protest (Archive photo)
South African Aids activists have interrupted the opening of a health conference by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, calling her a murderer and demanding her arrest.

About 100 members of an Aids activist group shouted down the controversial health minister, waving "Wanted" posters and chanting "Murderer" and "Manto go to jail", the South African Press Association reported.

The group, the Treatment Action Campaign, recently launched a campaign of civil disobedience against what they say is the government's refusal to aggressively combat the Aids pandemic, which is ravaging the country.

Facts and figures on the impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa

Some 4.7 million South Africans - one in nine - are HIV positive, more than any other country in the world.

Activists are resorting to increasingly confrontational tactics in their long-running battle with the government.

Government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe criticised the behaviour of the TAC as inappropriate.

Africa's growing epidemic

"We can make greater progress as a nation if we all lend a hand in partnership against Aids. Our energies should be spent fighting Aids, not one another," he said.

But the group hope their campaign will help persuade the government to change its policy and provide its people with anti-retroviral drugs.

The government says it is too expensive to provide all infected South Africans with the drugs and have also questioned their effectiveness.

Last week, the TAC filed manslaughter charges against the health minister and the trade and industry minister and called for their arrest, saying they were failing to prevent the deaths of friends and family.

A police officer said the charges would be investigated, but the two ministries concerned said they knew nothing about them.

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