How the Free State ARV moratorium breached the Constitution

How the Free State ARV moratorium breached the Constitution

The government has violated the Constitution by imposing a moratorium on the roll-out of antiretroviral drugs, for new HIV/AIDS patients in the Free State, the AIDS Law Project recently told a civil society gathering in Bloemfontein.

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‘€œThe right to health care services is provided for, in three sections of the South African Constitution’€, said Adila Hassim, head of Litigation and Legal Services at the AIDS Law Project (ALP).

‘€œThe thing that is unique about South Africa’€™s constitution is that it doesn’€™t just say you have a right.   It says the government, has duties to ensure, that your right, is actually realised’€, she said.

At the meeting a number of representatives from different non-governmental organisations including faith based organisations, testified on the hardships resulting from the lengthy and controversial moratorium, which made it impossible for desperate AIDS patients to access life saving drugs.

‘€œIt’€™s shocking that here in the Free State, because you are some way from Johannesburg and some way from Pretoria and some way from Cape Town, that you can have a moratorium on treatment, that lasted for three months and hardly anybody says anything about it. Under this constitution we’€™re all equal. We are not more equal if you are from Gauteng than if you are from the Free State’€, said Mark Heywood, head of the AIDS Law Project.

The ALP’€™s Adila Hassim questioned the Free State government’€™s level of transparency. ‘€œWhy were you not consulted before the moratorium was imposed’€? ‘€œPeople’€™s needs must be responded to and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy making’€, she said.

The implications of the ARV moratorium in the Free State have been devastating. The Southern African HIV/AIDS Clinicians’€™ Society estimates that 30 people a day have died while on the waiting list.

Asked whether the AIDS Law Project will file a lawsuit against government, Hassim said, ‘€œwe are here to offer our services in whatever way we can’€.

 ‘€œWe don’€™t believe that litigation is the first step’€, she added.

Representatives of the AIDS Law Project attended the meeting to explain to civil society organisations in the Free State their rights as stipulated in the constitution.