The continuing violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe have prompted a strongly worded statement from the South African Medical Association (SAMA) in which it voiced its concern about the situation, saying that it cannot remain silent on such issues.
Thousands of posts in the public health sector are vacant and the crisis is deepening as nurses, doctors and pharmacists leave in search of better working environments. However, a human resources plan to address the crisis has still not been released despite promises.
Former president Nelson Mandela has thrown his considerable weight behind an R80-million private sector plan to extend free antiretroviral drug treatment to thousands of poor people with HIV/AIDS. The plan is spearheaded by the South African Medical Association (Sama), representing 16 000 doctors. It throws down the gauntlet to the government, which continues to stonewall state antiretroviral provision for the estimated six million HIV-positive South Africans - close to 500 000 of them with full-blown AIDS. Currently about 20 000 South Africans - just more than four percent of those who qualify - receive antiretrovirals, overwhelmingly through private medical aid schemes. However, few medical AIDS cover more than a fraction of AIDS drug treatment. The Sama project will be launched on December 1 - World AIDS Day at a gala dinner in Johannesburg. Mandela's international standing would give a huge fillip to Sama's fund-raising efforts. Letlape said the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which had its own HIV/AIDS programme, would also be approached for funding. A practising doctor and outspoken critic of the official AIDS policy, Letlape said government was undermining the battle against the epidemic on a range of fronts. Letlape made no bones about his desire to jolt the government into action.If they set up just one pilot site it would send a message of hope to ordinary people. Letlape said in its first year the scheme would target 9 000 poor people with HIV/AIDS at an estimated outlay of R80-million, covering doctors' and laboratory fees, monitoring, and the cost of the drugs and their delivery However, the number of patients and treatment sites would expand if more money was raised. The plan was to use the testing and counselling infrastructure of the state, which would refer patients for private treatment once their HIV status had been established. Sama would draw up a register of suitable doctors. On funding, Letlape said charitable organisations and private corporations would be approached. However, United Nations AIDS funding might also become available. The obstacle, Letlape said, was a UN Global AIDS Fund rule - inserted last year at the South African government's behest when the fund was launched - that all funding pass through national governments. This is at the crux of the unresolved spat over a R600-million UN grant to a project in KwaZulu-Natal, which the government blocked as unprocedural. The project included antiretroviral provision. (Source: The Mail & Guardian, 20 September 2002)
The South African Medical Association (Sama) is breaking the silence on the debate about the treatment costs of HIV/AIDS drugs, choosing to support those calling on the government to provide medication to their patients. He added that Sama, an organisation which represents the majority of doctors in the country, had repeatedly stated that HIV caused AIDS, and that the spread of the disease could be prevented by adopting well-worked-out preventive measures, including the provision of drug therapy for those living with HIV/AIDS. Dr Letlape said the debate on whether HIV caused AIDS or not had no place in a country where people were dying without treatment. He said SA doctors would no longer be ignored in the AIDS debate. He said excuses would no longer be tolerated. He said South Africans deserved to have therapy made available to them. He said Sama supported the recently released Medical Research Council report, but did not wish to enter any further public debate on the issue. According to Dr Letlape these debates should have been resolved a long time ago. (Source: The Citizen, 5 November 2001)