The health ministry issued a list on Wednesday of groups invited to take part
in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Aids (UNGASS) which
included a representative from the previously excluded Treatment Action Campaign
The health ministry said earlier this month that the TAC, which was nominated
for a Nobel prize in 2004, was scored off the list of invitees because of a
concern over its position on HIV, sparking criticism from Aids activists.
The TAC's campaign for life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs has frequently
pitted it against President Thabo Mbeki's government, which it has criticised
for reacting too slowly to the epidemic's spread.
The health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday invitees had been selected
"with the aim of representing a broad spectrum of sectors involved in the
response to HIV and Aids", but no one could immediately be reached for
TAC spokesperson Nathan Geffen declined immediate comment and said the group was
"still trying to figure out what was going on".
The South African government bowed to pressure in late 2003 to provide public
treatment in the country worst affected by the disease.
The TAC says the rollout has since been too slow, due partly to a lack of
political will from Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has questioned
the emphasis on ARVs and stressed the benefits of nutrition and traditional
Activists say 900 South Africans die of Aids-related diseases every day and
official data estimates that 5,6-million of the country's 45 million people are
infected with HIV, the virus that leads to Aids. - Reuters