The Treatment Action Campaign and Friends of TAC (FOTAC) UK strongly endorse the following statement released yesterday by Sonke Gender Justice Network condemning recent offensive, sexist comments made by ANC Youth League President Julius Malema:
Cape Town/Johannesburg, 28 January 2009: The Sonke Gender Justice Network is deeply disturbed by the sexist comments made last week by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and by the failure of the ANC to sanction him.
Last week, at a meeting with 150 Cape Peninsula University of Technology students on January 22, Malema suggested that the woman who accused ANC president Jacob Zuma of rape had a "nice time" with him and said, "when a woman didn't enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money.”
On 19 December 2009 TAC wrote to Sakhiwo Belot, MEC for Health for the Free State Province, asking for clarity on a range of issues relating to the Free State’s critical, life threatening shortages of antiretroviral drugs. After having failed to receive a response from MEC Belot’s offices, TAC sent a follow-up letter on 21 January 2009, the deadline for response for which was yesterday, 26 January 2009. We are still awaiting a reply.
The political troubles in Zimbabwe have taken a toll on the population’s health. A severe cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe and the surrounding region including South Africa, Angola, and Mozambique continues to claims more lives. The situation is critical.
Many people are struggling to get clean water and enough food. The cholera epidemic seems to be gathering new momentum. Figures released by the WHO show a massive increase from a “cumulative total of 48 623 cases and 2 755 deaths, with an overall fatality rate of 5.7 per cent”.
According to the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in a report released last week the cholera outbreak is fuelled by the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health, water, and sanitation systems. The report points out that the decline in the nation’s health care system is “exacerbating the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.” The increased efforts to treat cholera and other infectious diseases present an “acute” threat to inpatients AIDS care in Zimbabwe says Dr David Sanders who was part of the PHR team.
On December 22 2008, nine men were arrested in Senegal and charged with "committing acts against nature" and "establishing an illegal organization". On January 6 2009 they were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
It is believed that the charges were laid against these individuals because they are men who have sex with men and active in HIV prevention and treatment organizations in the country.
Photo: President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. Source Wikipedia.
Drs. Kamiar and Arash Alaei, two prominent HIV physicians have been imprisoned in Iran since June 2008. Please sign the Physicians for Human Rights petition calling for their release. Also, please contact the Iranian mission to the UN and urge the Iranian government to release them.
Update on 20 January: It appears Kamiar and Arash Alaei have been imprisoned again. See this report in the New York Times:
In late November TAC reported on a national shortage of male latex condoms which threatened to undermine HIV prevention programmes over the holiday season. The condom shortage arose from delays in the national tendering process. TAC has been closely monitoring the situation over the course of the past few weeks. We are pleased to report that we have recently received confirmation from senior National Department of Health (NDoH) officials that the condom shortage has now been alleviated through the urgent importation of several million male latex condoms.
Daily we hear about the horrific conditions in Zimbabwe. In the past three weeks, the complete collapse of public health system and sanitation infrastructure has developed into a major cholera epidemic, which has not only extended to the entire country but also into South Africa. Authorities have closed the country's two main hospitals in Harare, including maternity wards. Essential medicines are not available to treat diseases that the government's gross negligence has exacerbated. Antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS patients and TB treatment has been severely disrupted. Recently, the Medical School of the University of Zimbabwe was closed indefinitely as it has become impossible to continue to teach medical students in non-functioning health institutions. In the same week, Zimbabwean health workers organised a mass protest in Harare over the failure of the government to address both the health system collapse and the cholera outbreak. The country's notorious riot police brutally and violently broke up the peaceful demonstration that was calling for a regional and international crisis response.
At a press conference last month, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) called for price deductions on the two Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection, and some strains of the disease cause cervical cancer. In South Africa, cervical cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. Approximately 7,000 women develop cervical cancer each year, and approximately one in 26 women in South Africans will develop cervical cancer in her lifetime.
But cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease. If women are given access to the HPV vaccine in the public health sector, they can be protected from the disease that causes cervical cancer. Unfortunately, the vaccines manufactured by Glaxo and MSD are far too expensive for South African women to afford, and arguably too costly for the government to purchase for public roll-out.
TAC therefore launched a campaign to reduce the prices of the drug, and our campaign has met with its first success. On Wednesday 3 December, we learnt that GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the HPV vaccine Cervarix, has agreed to reduce the price of the vaccine by 36%, to R450 per dose. Three doses of the vaccine are required to protect women from the two strains of HPV which the vaccine targets.
The national theme for World Aids Day on 1 December is “Leadership and Unity”. South Africa is finally united in stopping HIV, AIDS and TB, and in fighting for the best treatment and care for all.
TAC calls for all people living in South Africa to get involved in World AIDS Day. At midday on 1 December, there will be a 15 minute work stoppage to show our national commitment to stopping HIV and TB infections and deaths from AIDS. The Minister of Health will address the nation, followed by the Deputy President.
The 15 minute stoppage should be used by people across South Africa, in schools, churches, workplaces and communities, to observe World AIDS Day, and to act together to raise awareness about HIV/TB.
TAC calls for everyone to get involved: now is the time to approach others to plan actions on the day or to join in the many activities which are being planned.
Male latex condoms are the most efficient technology there is to reduce the transmission of HIV among sexually active South Africans. For the past two weeks the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has experienced difficultly in accessing an adequate supply of condoms. TAC distributes over 1 million condoms a month in the Western Cape alone. Our HIV prevention efforts are currently being undermined by a shortage of condoms which we have now confirmed to be a nation-wide problem.