Published: Tuesday 15 January 2002

A Pretoria High Court judge has said in a ruling that hiv -infected pregnant women under the care of the state are entitled to a low-cost drug, Nevirapine, which reduces a newborn's risk of contracting the virus.

About 70,000 children are infected annually due to mother-to-child transmission. The decision has been hailed by advocacy groups. Mark Heywood, a member of the Treatment Action Campaign, a group fighting aids, says that the ruling is significant. However, he stresses that "it does not solve the problem of aids in the country by any means". Heywood feels that a start has been made. And there is hope regarding other aspects of the aids epidemic.

South Africa's hiv infected population--an estimated 4.6 million people--is the largest in any other country throughout the world.

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