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S. Africa MD Takes Heat for Stance

January 10, 2000

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) _ A public hospital doctor who criticized South Africa’s former health minister for not giving anti-AIDS drugs to newborns said Monday he had been reprimanded for bringing his former boss into ``disrepute.″

Dr. Costa Gazi, director of public health at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, was brought before a disciplinary committee by the Health Ministry. The panel recommended a reprimand, he said.

The debate over whether to provide the common anti-AIDS drug AZT to pregnant women to protect their newborns from infection pitted researchers, doctors and AIDS activists against the government.

The government in South Africa _ which has a soaring AIDS rate _ said the drug was potentially dangerous, too expensive and prevented only a minority of infections.

Elsewhere in the world, AZT administered to pregnant women is widely accepted as a major weapon in preventing the transmission of the AIDS virus from mother to child.

Gazi spoke up against former Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma in November, accusing her of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of children from AIDS. He said the government’s refusal to provide AZT to pregnant women meant children were unnecessarily contracting the fatal disease.

``I was found guilty of bringing Dr. Zuma in disrepute,″ Gazi said. ``All I wanted to do was bring her to court for negligence and culpable homicide.″

Health Ministry officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The Health Ministry’s disciplinary action toward Gazi highlighted what critics of the African National Congress called the party’s thin-skinned response to challenges to its policies. Gazi also is a prominent member of the Pan Africanist Congress, a small opposition party.

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