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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 15:40 GMT
SA group to sue over Aids drugs
Aids campaigner Zackie Achmat (l) shouts at Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (r)
The health minister (r) has been attacked for her stance on Aids drugs
Pressure is mounting on the South African government to hasten the distribution of drugs to combat HIV/Aids at public hospitals.

The lobby group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has threatened to go to court before the 14 April elections to push for the roll out to begin.

The government says the programme to distribute anti-retroviral drugs will begin in April throughout the country.

South Africa has highest number of HIV positive people in the world.

Provision of the anti-retroviral drugs to South Africa's five million people living with the disease has been a major issue in the election campaign.

'Beetroot and lemons'

The BBC's Victoria Phenethi in Johannesburg says the health ministry is expected to respond to a demand by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on the process of the drug roll out programme.

Early this month, a Human Rights Watch report said little has been done since the programme was announced in 2002.

But a statement from the Health ministry says the drugs would be made available to provincial health departments from April 2004.

Some 40 pharmaceutical firms have expressed interest in supplying drugs nationwide and had until 2 April to submit tenders, Reuters news agency reported.

President Thabo Mbeki's government has frequently been criticised for the slow pace at which it is handling the pandemic.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has previously been quoted as saying that she would not be hurried into providing anti-retroviral drugs, and that beetroot and lemons were part of an ideal diet for people who were HIV positive.

TAC says only 2,700 people will receive anti-retroviral drugs by the end of March, far short of the government target of 53,000.

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