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Achmat takes first antiretrovirals
10/9/2003
 
 

PICTURE: Oh Shucks, Im Gatvol. No Job, No, Food, No Clothes. South African comical genius Leon Schuster was up to his antics again in Johannesburg last Thursday. Schuster was busy filming his new film "Oh shucks, I'm gatvol" which is due for release in April next year.  Picture: Shayne Robinson/SAPA

Government announces that it is drawing up a plan for a national rollout of ARVís

Aids activist Zackie Achmat has taken his first antiretroviral drugs. He made the announcement on Monday at a media briefing called by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which he chairs, to launch a project to provide ARVs to treatment activists and the community at large. The HIV-positive Achmat at one point vowed not to take the potentially life-saving medication until government committed to a treatment plan for all South Africans. However, the TAC national congress held in Durban last month urged him to go on to ARVs, and days later government announced that it was in fact drawing up a plan for a national rollout. Achmat said he took his first pill on Thursday, in the company of a few friends and family. Apart from one really bad headache and a light-headedness that made him feel as though he were "high", there had been no serious side effects. He was taking the generic Triomune, a combination of stavudine, lamivudene and a version of Nevirapine. Holding up one of the pills, the colour of which was described on the packaging as "lake sunset yellow", he said: "That's what I have to take to keep me alive; I hope for the next 20 years." Achmat said he was importing the pills, which cost him R300 a month, from India, where they were manufactured, under a special dispensation from the South African Medicines Control Council. The components of Triomune are all patented under brand names in South Africa. TAC said at the same briefing that it hoped to gather enough funding to put a thousand people on ARV treatment by the end of 2004. Vuyiseka Dubula, chairwoman of the Treatment Project, a not-for-profit company, said they were appealing to all South Africans to pledge a monthly donation. The project was a bid to save as many lives as possible until the health ministry's national ARV rollout became effective --which could take years.

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