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Report: 1.7 Million South African Lives Could be Saved with AIDS Drugs - 2003-07-14

A published report says South Africa's government has determined that more than 1.7 million lives can be saved if it gives AIDS drugs to everyone needing them.

Monday's edition of the Cape Times newspaper quotes a long-awaited study on the cost and impact of a national AIDS drug program.

The newspaper said 733,000 lives can be saved by 2010 if only half the number of those needing AIDS drugs are treated. If the drugs are not provided, it says, 1.8 million more children will lose at least one parent. The newspaper said the report puts the cost of a nationwide AIDS drug rollout at $2-3 billion.

South Africa's finance ministry has set aside about $393 million, or less than a tenth of the projected cost, in the current year's budget for AIDS drug treatments.

A joint health and finance ministry task force completed the report several months ago but did not release it. The newspaper said the nation's leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, leaked the report to politicians, trade unions and others to pressure South Africa's government to set up the program.

U.N. AIDS and the World Health Organization estimate 20 percent of the adult population in South Africa is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.