Government believes that it has acted responsibly by introducing the anti-AIDS drug, nevirapine, in a controlled process at 18 pilot sites countrywide.
This is according to affidavits filed in the Pretoria High Court by the Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, and eight provincial health MECs (excluding the Western Cape) in response to a court challenge by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
TAC has initiated court action against the minister and her MECs in a bid to ensure that doctors in public health are allowed to prescribe nevirapine to HIV positive pregnant women and that, within 18 months, the drug is available at all public health facilities nationwide.
The Western Cape has been excluded from the court action as it is committed to providing nevirapine at all its health facilities.
Nevirapine can reduce the transmission rate of HIV from infected mothers to their babies in vitro and during labour by up to 50%. An estimated 70 000 babies are born with HIV every year in South Africa.
However, in the affidavits - which run to hundreds of pages - the respondents assert the reasonable and rational nature of introducing nevirapine at the 18 sites.
They also argue that TAC is asking the court to make a policy choice, yet it is not the court's role to do so.
TAC has until Tuesday to respond to the government's affidavits, and was busy formulating its response at the time of going to press.
TAC leadership recently wrote to Tshabalala Msimang, appealing to her to abandon your opposition to the court case and to once again give people hope in the government.
The case has been provisionally set down for 26 and 27 November, and TAC is planning massive protests to coincide with the start of it.
- Health-e News Service.