The article highlights the public health and social emergency facing South Africa due to the fact that an estimated six million of its 40 million citizens are HIV-positive. The state response to this crisis has been criticised from many quarters.
In the light of Minister oj Health v TAC it is argued that the right of access to health care services places a duty on the state to provide anti-retroviral drugs to medical personnel exposed to the virus, rape survivors and HIV-positive pregnant mothers and their newborn babies. The author also finds that, although there is no constitutional duty on the state to provide free access to anti-retroviral treatment to all who need it, the state does have a duty to take reasonable steps to lower the prices of anti-retroviral drugs. Pointing out that there are several legally appropriate avenues open for achieving this, he concludes that the state's failure to explore any of these avenues is unreasonable and falls foul of the duties set out in section 27 of the Constitution.