On Thursday 2 April, TAC activists together with many other HIV activists held a protest at the 4th Southern African AIDS Conference in Durban. The focus of the protest was 'HIV is not in recession!', timed to coincide with the G20 meeting in London and the focus of world leaders on costing a multi-trillion dollar bailout to stabilise the global economy.
As activists peacefully toyi-toyi'd from the people living with HIV gathering room, security guards began to amass. By the time protesters had walked downed the stairs, they were surrounded by a human chain of guards. As activists sang protest songs and held posters stating 'Bail out health care', and 'No more ARV waiting lists', security guards began to push activists outside. One of the security leaders instructed Victor Lakay, TAC's head of Community Health Advocacy and one of the members of the conference's organising committee, to disperse the protest or face expulsion from the conference hall immediately. Activists had their badges snatched from around their necks as the protest continued.
The following joint -statement was released today by the Treatment Action Campaign and the TB/HIV Care Association. A copy of the statement was handed over to Dr. Joey Cupido who received the memo on behalf of the National Department of Health following a march to Parliament.
24 March, 2009
Work in partnership to save lives: Increase access to TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and adherence support
We, as nongovernmental organisations, health workers and community care givers working to prevent and treat TB in our communities, are here today to show our commitment to increase our efforts and build partnerhips to end the TB and HIV coepidemics. We realise that we cannot overcome this immense public health challenge alone and that commitment is needed from every individual, organisation and sector. As civil society, we will continue to mobilise communities and collaborate with government to increase access to TB/HIV services. In turn, we call on government to commit to invest more financial and human resources to address the dual TB and HIV epidemics in South Africa in partnership with civil society.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) acknowledges the excellent work done by churches worldwide to address the HIV epidemic. The groundswell of support from churches in caring for people with HIV has often meant that people have access to essential services who would otherwise have suffered and died needlessly. The church is one of the greatest allies of the HIV treatment access movement across the globe, and especially in Africa. In South Africa, where over 50% of the population attends a house of worship at least once a week, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and other religious figures have championed the struggle for access to ARVs and other life-saving services, side by side with activists. It is for this reason that TAC was so dismayed to hear the recent harmful and ill-informed comments by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Cameroon on Tuesday.
On Tuesday 17 March, Pope Benedict XVI visited Cameroon and told reporters, “You can't resolve [AIDS] with condoms ... On the contrary, it increases the problem.” To view a CNN video clip of the Pope's comments please click here.
TAC is pleased to report two positive developments that all but bring the Matthias Rath saga to a conclusion:
This morning, Judge Brian Southwood dismissed Minister Balfour’s application for leave to appeal against the decision by the Northern Gauteng High Court ordering that TAC and ALP be given access to the report of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIOP) regarding the death of prisoner ‘MM’. MM died in a Westville prison after having been denied access to ARVs. Justice Southwood described the Minister’s application for leave to appeal as ill-conceived, and ordered the government to pay the legal costs incurred by TAC and ALP.
The JIOP report had already been released to the public in the wake of Judge Southwood’s earlier order. TAC and ALP believes that Balfour’s application for leave to appeal that order was a shameful waste of public funds. Balfour’s counsel, Adv. Moerane, explained Balfour’s motivation in seeking leave to appeal -- notwithstanding the fact that the report had already been released -- as being to refute allegation he had lied about the report.
The Minister of Correctional Services (DCS) has applied for leave to appeal against the decision by the Northern Gauteng High Court in the ‘MM’ case. This case was brought by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and our attorneys, the AIDS Law Project, to be given access to the report of the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons (JIOP) regarding the premature and unnecessary death of ‘MM’. A hearing regarding the appeal will take place on Friday 13 March 2009 at the Pretoria High Court.
This case is about accountability of Minister Balfour and his Department, and the public’s right to know the causes of death of a person in their custody. It is also about the waste of scarce public finances in a time where need for ARV treatment is great.
The following call for participants was released today by SANAC's Women's Sector:
The Women's sector in SANAC wishes to hold a consultation workshop on the impact of Male Circumcision on Women. The aim is to assess and articulate what such a policy needs to entail from the planning stages of formulation through to implementation, to reflect a consideration of the reality and the needs of the lives of women from birth to death.
The following article, authored by Executive Director of the AIDS Law Project Mark Heywood, was originally published in the Cape Times and Star newspapers on 11 March 2009:
Somewhere around 1 November 2008 the death penalty was reintroduced in the Free State. Quietly, with the stroke of a pen, an official in the Department of Health in Bloemfontein signed a memorandum introducing a moratorium declaring that no new patients should be put on anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. This was to be for the next five months – until the new financial year, April 1 2009 -- when the funds would return.
Who was this official? Did he or she have a God complex, or was he an AIDS denialist who didn’t believe that ARV treatment keeps people alive? Certainly a few of them still lurk within the corridors of the Free State Health department. In fact at the same time that ARV treatment was stopped an official provincial government publication was promoting garlic and the remedies of Tine van Der Mass.
Or did the official just not understand the law, the Constitution, the meaning of the right to health, or the huge life and death implications of the piece of paper that he signed that day?
CHMT a national HIV/AIDS Media and outreach NGO, based in Muizenberg, Cape Town is currently recruiting a Co-ordinator: HIV/AIDS Outreach Project.
CHMT a national HIV/AIDS Media and outreach NGO, based in Muizenberg, Cape Town is currently recruiting a Treatment Literacy Trainer. This post requires an experienced trainer to provide training to our Treatment Literacy and Prevention Practitioners based in clinics.