S.A. President And Cronies
Said Grabbing AIDS Drugs First
The Daily Nation -From Johannesburg,
President Thabo Mbeki and South African parliamentarians have access to Aids drugs the government denies to rape victims and poor people infected with HIV/Aids, a report claimed today.
The parliamentary medical aid scheme, Parmed, which serves 2,000 MP's, judges and President Mbeki himself, pays up to 35,000 rand (US $4,615) for anti-HIV therapy and provides AZT to pregnant women and rape victims, Johannesburg Sunday Times said.
President Mbeki, in heated letters to Tony Leon, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, made public last week, said providing AZT to rape victims would violate the law as the drug was not registered for this purpose.
"Respect for the rule of law requires that all of us must demand AZT should not be used for a purpose for which it is not registered," President Mbeki said.
His angry comments were made in response to Leon's plea that AZT be administered to rape victims.
The Sunday Times said, however, that Parmed boasts of providing AZT, as a matter of course, to rape victims.
Parmed is compulsory for all members of parliament and provincial legislatures, the president, cabinet ministers and judges of the constitutional and high courts.
The drugs are subsidised by taxpayers as the State pays two-thirds of members' monthly premiums.
The report said the government last week ordered a non-profit organisation in Mpumalanga Province to stop providing AZT to rape victims as "this was not in accordance with Health policy."
The Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project sees about 50 women and children who are raped every month.
The projects coordinator, Ms Barbara Kenyon, said the child-rape victims had sky-rocketed this year due to the myth that men can be cured of Aids by raping a child.
She described the government's decision to shut down the project, which was funded by private donors, as "an outrage".
"If you are rich and sitting in parliament, you can get life-saving medication, but if you are poor and living in rural Mpumalanga, then you are denied it."
President Mbeki has come under increasing criticism in recent weeks for his stance on HIV/Aids.
Last week, the president claimed that the US CIA was working with American pharmaceutical manufacturers to undermine him and his questioning of the link between HIV and Aids. (AFP)." _____

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