Nearly R2-billion is provisionally budgeted for ‘€œmedically appropriate treatment’€ (anti-retrovirals) for HIV-infected people, pending a decision by a government task team on universal access to medicines. A decision by the bilateral task team, comprising officials from the departments of health and treasury, is expected within the next few weeks.

The additional amount budgeted for HIV/AIDS is R3,3 billion more over three years, starting with R1,9-billion this year to make provision for among others the possible universal roll-out of medicines to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Additional amounts have also been allocated for the next two financial years, pending the task team’€™s decision.

Manuel’€™s announcement brings the total accumulative budget for AIDS to R8,3-billion over three years, which will also make provision for the strengthening of the health sector to absorb the additional load of the epidemic and support prevention programmes.

The budget also contains funding for the full roll-out of anti-retroviral medicines to prevent mother to child transmission, with about R200-million allocated a year, and R16-million a year to treat rape survivors.

Payments to the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative have also been doubled to R10 million in 2003/4.

Manuel announced increased spending on social grants, medicines, hospital buildings and equipment.

He said that in preparing the 2003 Budget they had given special emphasis to the critical requirements for improving the quality of provincial health services ‘€“ supplies to medicines, hospital and clinic management and staffing.

The Budget makes provision for the upgrading and refurbishment of 18 additional hospitals over the next three years.

Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang hailed the budget as the most positive in several years.

She said a large chunk of the money would be sent to provinces to expand HIV/AIDS treatment.

In a serious wake-up call to civil servants Manuel also warned that ‘€œWe simply cannot and must not tolerate’€¦those who bring shame to their profession by treating patients by treating patients and their families callously, or those who abuse children in their care, or those who could not be bothered to ensure that hospitals have medicines. Those who do not embrace the spirit of Batho Pele should do the right thing and leave the public service.’€