By Ben Maclennan

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says it will step up pressure on the government and the private sector in the coming year over treatment for people living with HIV/Aids.

The lobby group's chairperson, Zackie Achmat, said on Saturday the TAC was "finishing one set of business" with its court challenge to the government over the mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) prevention programme.

"Next year we're going to make sure that government adopts a (general) treatment plan and that generic anti-retrovirals (ARVs) become available in our country," he said.

"And we're going to tackle the private sector whose response has been less than satisfactory."

Achmat, speaking after a World Aids Day service at St George's Cathederal in Cape Town, said the TAC was preparing its members to challenge the government through a process of civil disobedience if necessary, because people's lives were at stake.

"We hope we don't have to," he said. "We're still giving the government the benefit of the doubt."

He said many medical schemes were already "doing a good thing", but some were not offering ARVs to people with HIV/Aids, and others were charging too much for the drugs.

A few were still not offering an MTCT option.

As far as the business sector was concerned, a few companies were trying to introduce treatment programmes, awareness and education.

"But business in general is not doing what it could be doing, and should be doing," he said.

Achmat said the TAC was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome of the Pretoria court challenge, where the organisation has demanded the government set a timetable for swift roll-out of MTCT programmes.

Judgment in the case is expected before Christmas.

"We think that the possibility's strong that we'll get a good judgment," he said. "We have confidence in our legal arguments."

Several hundred people attended the service, which was addressed by Achmat, Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and people living with HIV.

Many of them went on afterwards to the nearby Company Gardens for a city council-sponsored Aids Day free concert. - Sapa