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PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma needs to show stronger political leadership in responding to HIV-Aids, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says.
Zuma must tell Britain and the US that now is not the time for them to slash funding for programmes providing antiretrovirals (ARVs) in Africa, the TAC said.
The TAC wants Zuma to make sure that the Group of Eight (most industrialised countries) and the Group of 20 (most powerful finance ministers) and central bank governors put funding for ARVs on their agenda when they meet later this year.
The TAC's Nokhwezi Hoboyi and Andile Madondile spoke yesterday at a press conference in Cape Town with the Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), ahead of another international government meeting in London today which will take stock of progress made since the G8 promised in 2005 to make antiretrovirals available to all by 2010.
"We would like Zuma to be very vocal as he was last year on World Aids Day.
"We need our government to ensure that everyone who needs treatment will get it," Hoboyi said.
The TAC hopes Zuma will live up to his promises to extend ARVs to all children and pregnant women with CD4 counts of less than 350 by April 1.
"You will see us going on to the streets if we don't get any better response from our government (by then)," she said.
Hoboyi said the G8 and G20 had flatly refused to put HIV-Aids on the agendas for discussion - despite promises to fund more ARVs for the poor.
As the leader of the only African country represented in the G20, it was up to Zuma to become the champion of ARVs for the poor, she said.
Gilles van Cutsem, MSF Khayelitsha HIV-TB programme coordinator, warned that 10million HIV-positive South Africans still did not have access to ARVs.
Van Cutsem said unless more funding was injected into rolling out better quality ARVs the government faced "new emergencies".
"If funding is not coming, the foundations will start crumbling. We will start dealing with new emergencies in which people who have started treatment have to stop because there are no more drugs," Van Cutsem said.
Madondile warned that if Zuma did not put pressure on Britain and the US to increase funding for ARVs, people would stop going for HIV tests.
"If we don't put more people on ARVs, it will make people reluctant to go for testing. Stigma will come again. What will be the use of campaigning for people to go to the clinic if they don't find the treatment there?"