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The South African government announced today that it will appeal against a high court ruling made on 14 December forcing it to provide treatment for HIV-positive mothers and babies.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said in a press release that the courts have no right to make policy and that the verdict could “create confusion about the principle of the separation of powers, which is a cornerstone of our democracy.”

But she also said that the government would review its current policy on mother-to-child transmission in January 2002 through a “broader stakeholder consultation”.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) — which filed a lawsuit against the government last November demanding that all HIV-positive pregnant women are given nevirapine, a drug that reduces mother-to-child transmission — welcomed the government’s policy review.

But it also said in a statement that the government’s reasons for appealing against the ruling “demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of constitutional democracy”.

“Government action or inaction is not above the law,” the TAC said, confident that its position will stand the test of the Constitutional Court.

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