Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and provincial health MECs will meet in Johannesburg this week to review government's programme against mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) of HIV, at a time when two provinces and several state doctors have defied national policy.
The meeting comes a week after the KwaZulu-Natal government announced it would provide the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women in the province's state hospitals.
The Western Cape government implemented a similar programme last year, which it has since extended.
Recent news reports have also focused on how doctors and healthcare workers are defying the government's ban on the use of anti-retroviral drugs - such as Nevirapine - at state hospitals, resulting in some being censured and disciplined for doing so.
The meeting in Johannesburg on January 31 and February 1, is a follow-up to December's Minmec (a national and provincial government health forum) meeting.
That meeting followed a groundbreaking high court ruling which ordered the government to make Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant women.
The government decided to appeal the ruling.
Health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Collinge said on Sunday it had been decided at the last Minmec meeting to conduct a further appraisal of the MTCT programme taking into account the latest date from current MTCT sites.
According to a health ministry statement released after the December meeting, the January appraisal would be followed by a broader stakeholder consultation on the MTCT Programme to share the lessons of the pilot sites and to chart plans for the future of this programme on the basis of broad consensus".
The consultation will be conducted in an inclusive and open manner. And we hope that this will reassure the public that we are committed to a successful, accessible MTCT programme, it said then.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Zweli Mkhize - an ANC member of the provincial cabinet - told the SABC's Newsmaker programme on Sunday that July would be a more realistic date for the full implementation of the province's Nevirapine
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Lionel Mtshali is on record as saying he wants the programme implemented by April.
We have done enough work now in order to move the programme. The process is on course, but we need to be given time, Mkhize said.
The April deadline for the whole province was not feasible.
Mkhize said he had a plan that would begin targeting bigger hospitals in every district and then move to the next level, until all the hospitals in the province were reached.
Also speaking on the programme, KwaZulu-Natal premier Lionel Mtshali said he believed a three-month period was reasonable for the health department to prepare.
Mtshali said the province's citizens supported his initiative.
This is the music they have been waiting to hear.
Source: SAPA, 27 January 2002