Health MEC defends remark about ‘black people’s disease’

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Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba has defended a comment she made about HIV being a black people’s disease, saying it was taken out of context. She said that she had, in fact, spoken about the socioeconomic ills faced by black people.

News24 reports that the comment – made during a meeting with the Moutse Health Crisis Committee on 16 April – has landed Ramathuba in hot water with HIV and tuberculosis patients in the province. The patients have since hauled her to the Equality Court for discrimination, hate speech and incitement.

This, after she reportedly said: “Because if I could quote what the TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) and also what one of the comrades said this week, are (sic), HIV/Aids is within the black community but the money is with the white people.”

The report says Ramathuba has ventured to clarify her statement, saying: “I was quoting a statement sent out by the SA National Aids Council’s Civil Society Forum, which said that, while HIV is prevalent in the black community, funding for HIV-related non-governmental programmes is biased towards white-managed organisations.” She continued: “I even said that it didn’t mean that only black people had the disease because, even if you are the president or are homeless, you still can contract it. But the socioeconomic ills faced by the black community are such that we are more exposed to the disease.”

Ramathuba believes that the committee’s insistence on taking her to court over her comments stemmed from its displeasure over her department not renewing a contract with non-governmental organisation Ndlovu Care Group, which treats 3,700 HIV-positive patients – who also suffer from tuberculosis – on an outpatient basis.

The report says the committee raised concerns about the contract not being renewed, claiming that patients who were taken out of the programme would not take their medication, which could lead to deaths.

But Ramathuba stood by the department’s decision to take over the patients’ treatment. They will now collect their medication at local pharmacy points and government clinics. “Yes, we have serious challenges in the health sector, but our antiretroviral (ARV) programme is where we excel. With more than 371,000 patients already on ARVs in the province, why would adding 3,500 be a problem?” she asked. “There was no longer any value for money in the R14m contract we had with Ndlovu Care Group, and we can’t still spend so much money when there are other areas where we are really struggling.”

News24 report

 

It was reported last week that HIV and tuberculosis patients had taken Ramathuba to the Equality Court for discrimination, hate speech and incitement for her comments.

MedicalBrief report

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