The latest judgment to show the courts’ disdain over government’s handling of the HIV/AIDS issue is that concerning Dr Malcolm Naude. Judge C.J. Musi of the Labour Court in Johannesburg recently ruled against the Mpumalanga Department of Health and former provincial Health MEC, Sibongile Manana, saying they had unfairly dismissed Naude.
The ruling also ordered the provincial Health Department to pay him R100 000 in compensation and to foot his legal bill. The judgement also went on to comment about the former provincial Health MEC’s management style, labelling her ‘tyrannical and dictatorial’.
Naude was denied a position as a medical officer at Mpumalanga’s largest hospital, Rob Ferreira, because he advocated for rape survivors to receive antiretrovirals to protect them from acquiring HIV infection as part of their treatment. In a number of preceding court cases challenging the government’s obstinance in dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, judges have found fault with it and chastised it over its non-committal, lackadaisical and inhumane approach to dealing with citizens living with HIV and AIDS. The AIDS Law Project represented many of the applicants.
‘The courts pronounced against AIDS denialism a long time ago, as early as 2002 when they instructed the government to roll out a national programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission (of HIV)’, says Mark Hey wood, Director of the AIDS Law Project.
Court rulings have consistently upheld the view that the government’s stance on HIV/AIDS was unjust, from the very first ruling in 2002 when the Constitutional Court told government to provide universal access to Nevirapine to pregnant HIV-positive women so as to avoid infecting their unborn babies. Notwithstanding the fact that the courts need to be seen as non-partisan, it can be argued that the rulings, based on the review of scientific and medical evidence, by the country’s judiciary have gone a long way to influencing the current changing political climate when it comes to the government’s response to HIV/AIDS. These changes have been particularly noticeable in the last two years, which culminated with the adoption last year of the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS.