The Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, is to defend the court challenge by the Treatment Action Campaign aimed at getting the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine available to all pregnant HIV positive women attending public health facilities countrywide.
Tshabalala-Msimang will be joined by all nine provincial health MECs, although the Western Cape will defend the action with its own legal team.
At present, only pregnant HIV positive women who attend ante-natal clinics at one of 18 pilot sites countrywide are offered free Nevirapine. The drug can cut the rate of transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies by up to 50%.
TAC argues that the restriction of the drug violates the Bill of Rights, and that it is “illogical” that doctors in private health can prescribe Nevirapine whereas doctors in public health cannot.
Both the Western Cape and Gauteng have written to TAC’s lawyers explaining their plans to extend the offer of free Nevirapine to more than the two sites per province stipulated by national government.