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SAF To Comply With AIDS Drug Distribution Order - 2002-04-04

The South African government says it accepts a Constitutional Court ruling mandating the temporary distribution of the anti-AIDS drug Nevirapine to H-I-V positive pregnant mothers.

The announcement (Thursday) comes hours after the justices rejected the government's challenge of last week's ruling by the Pretoria High Court.

That earlier ruling said the ministry of health must begin distributing Nevirapine until a full hearing on the policy is held in May.

Both Thursday's and last week's rulings mandates distribution at public hospitals wherever authorities have the resources and the supplies for doing so.

AIDS activists welcomed the Constitutional Court's decision.

The South African Health Ministry opposes the widespread distribution of Nevirapine, saying the drug is too expensive and could prove dangerous for H-I-V-positive pregnant women.

Doctors say the drug helps reduce the rate of H-I-V transmission from mothers to babies by 50 percent.

An estimated one in four South African adults carries the H-I-V virus. AIDS activists say the government is dragging its feet in the face of the pandemic.

(Reuters, SAPA, prev.)