In 2003 the South African Cabinet approved the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs) in the public sector and in early 2004 the programme started. Now in its fifth year, government often claims that it is the "largest treatment programme in the world".
I have spent most of my life trying to fight injustice -- and thankfully there is still the space to do so in South Africa. But not once did I consider the impact of South Africa's archaic public- and private-sector rules on people who were born elsewhere. Of course, for many if not most political and economic refugees, coming to South Africa is a harrowing experience.
Recently, the minister of health, officials in the department of health and in the Government Communication and Information System, President Thabo Mbeki and Medical Research Council head Anthony Mbewu stated that South Africa has the "largest treatment programme in the world" and the "fastest roll-out on the planet". This is simply not the case.
In November 2003 the Cabinet approved a national plan for HIV/ Aids prevention, care and treatment. The plan estimated that 53 000 people would be placed on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment by the end of March this year. Eight months on, fewer than 10 000 people with HIV/Aids are receiving anti-retrovirals through the public health system.