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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Mbeki 'betrayed' S Africa on Aids
Aids activists in South Africa
Activists have long campaigned for Aids drugs
The leader of South Africa's trade union movement has launched a stinging attack on the government over HIV/Aids.

Zwelinzima Vavi accused President Thabo Mbeki and the health ministry of a "failure of leadership" and "a betrayal of our people and our struggle".

Six million of South Africa's 40m people are infected with HIV, according to the health department.

Strains have emerged in the alliance between Mr Mbeki's ANC and the unions, who demand more action on poverty.

The tensions worsened when ex-deputy President Jacob Zuma was sacked in June.

Mr Zuma, who is popular with the unions, is to appear in court on corruption charges next month.

Implementation

"Any health ministry that presides over the spread of an epidemic like this one has much to answer for," Mr Vavi - secretary general of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu) - told the congress of the pressure group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

There is something very wrong when there is silence about the need to ensure that people have access to cheap anti-retrovirals
Zwelinzima Vavi
South Africa began last year to distribute anti-retroviral drugs - which reduce the effects of HIV - in state clinics, following years of pressure by activists.

However, government critics say that the implementation of the new policy has been too slow.

"When last did any of us hear our president mentioning the words HIV and Aids?" Mr Vavi asked.

"When last did we hear our minister talking about the need to implement government policy including provision of the antiretrovirals and or accounting for failure of government to meet targets set by the government?"

Mr Vavi also criticised Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has emphasised the need for a healthy diet in combating HIV/Aids.

"Too many times we hear her speaking about spinach. There is nothing wrong with encouraging our people to eat healthily and to live healthily," Mr Vavi said.

"But there is something very wrong when there is silence about the other government policy such as the need to ensure that people have access to cheap anti-retrovirals."


SEE ALSO:
Big jump in S African HIV cases
11 Jul 05 |  Africa
Aids 'kills one in three' in SA
18 May 05 |  Africa


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