The Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, announced on Wednesday that the programme was part of the ''governments comprehensive treatment plan''.

Aids and HIV has created a health and social crisis in South Africa, being felt by millions of people.

South Africa has a population of 45 million people, five million of whom are infected with the HIV virus.

Treatment

Government statistics show that the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of HIV positive cases in the country, with 36.2% of adults estimated to be HIV infected.

Anti-retrovial treatment has had a major impact on HIV in the developed world, helping carriers to lead relatively normal lives. 

In South Africa the treatment remains the privilege of the rich.

President Thabo Mbeki's government has pledged to spend 12.1bn rand ($1.7bn) over the next three years to fight the AIDS and HIV epedemic. This will include $1.9bn earmarked for a national anti-retroviral drug programme.
 
Health activists and anti-AIDS-campaigners have long accused the South African government of dragging its feet over a long term health policy, focusing on tackling the AIDS epidemic.

Both President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang have been criticised for failing to grasp the seriousness of the crisis.