This is an archive of the Treatment Action Campaign's public documents from December 1998 until October 2008. I created this website because the TAC's website appears unmaintained and people were concerned that it
was becoming increasingly hard to find important documents.

The menu items have been slightly edited and a new stylesheet applied to the site. But none of the documents have been edited, not even for minor errors. The text appears on this site as obtained from the Internet Archive.

The period covered by the archive encompassed the campaign for HIV medicines, the civil disobedience campaigns, the Competition Commission complaints, the 2008 xenophobic violence and the PMTCT, Khayelitsha health workers and Matthias Rath court cases.

Defiance Campaign

29 January 2002


Joint Press Release of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and Oxfam, Generic AIDS Drugs Offer New Lease on Life to South Africans Importation of generics cuts price in half

29 January 2002, Johannesburg - Yesterday, three members of the Treatment 
Action Campaign, (TAC) returned to South Africa from Brazil carrying 
generic drugs manufactured for use in an AIDS treatment program in 
Khayelitsha.  At a press conference today, TAC and MSF explained that the 
drugs carried from Brazil were the second shipment of Brazilian drugs and 
that as of today more than 50 people are already taking the Brazilian 
medicines in Khayelitsha.

To guarantee the quality of these drugs, an authorisation from the 
Medicines Control Council (MCC), the South African drug regulatory 
authority, was obtained prior to their use.

"Last week in Brazil we saw what happens when a government decides to 
tackle HIV/AIDS. The Brazilians' decision to offer universal access to 
antiretroviral therapy even in the poorest areas of the country is keeping 
tens of thousands of people alive," said Zackie Achmat of the Treatment 
Action Campaign. "Central to the success of Brazil's AIDS programme is 
their willingness to do anything necessary to source the lowest cost 
quality ARVS. The South African government should pursue compulsory 
licensing to ensure that generic antiretrovirals can be produced and/or 
imported in South Africa."  
At a press conference today, the NGOs said that the court victory of the 
South African government against multinational pharmaceutical companies 
had opened the door to improved access to affordable medicines.  "The 
South African government may need international financial help to provide 
treatment, but these needs will be dramatically reduced if the government 
takes steps to use the most affordable drugs available on the worldwide 
market, as the multinational pharmaceutical companies are still charging 
exorbitant prices for these drugs," said Dan Mullins of Oxfam.

Despite the national government's refusal to provide antiretroviral 
treatment, three clinics run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) within the 
government primary health care centres offer a comprehensive package of 
services to people living with HIV/AIDS, including antiretroviral therapy. 
This project is part of an agreement between MSF and the government of the 
Western Cape, signed two years ago with the express intent to test the 
feasibility of generic antiretroviral therapy. These clinics, located in 
Khayelitsha, a sprawling township of 500,000 people outside Cape Town, 
were opened in April 2000 and have provided treatment for opportunistic 
infections for over 2,300 people living with HIV/AIDS. 
In May 2001, combination antiretroviral therapy was introduced for a group 
of people in advanced stages of AIDS. To date, 85 people have received 
antiretroviral therapy and 50 of these are receiving Brazilian medicines. 
Using generic antiretrovirals offers the possibility of treating twice the 
number of people with the same amount of money.

"I have personally benefited from the MSF antiretroviral programme, and I 
have gone to Brazil to bring back generics so that more people like me can 
have access to these medicines," said Matthew Damane, a person living with 
AIDS who is receiving antiretroviral therapy as part of the MSF programme 
in Khayelitsha. "The government should publicly accept the effectiveness 
of these medicines and make them available to people with AIDS in South 

"Our project shows that antiretroviral therapy is feasible in a 
resource-poor setting, contrary to those who insist that poor Africans are 
not able to successfully take these drugs. Patients who were critically 
ill are now returning to their normal lives," said Dr. Eric Goemaere of 
MSF South Africa. "We have seen firsthand that these drugs can be used 
safely and effectively here in South Africa. As medical professionals, it 
is our duty to offer these benefits to as many patients as possible."

Similar initiatives are springing up elsewhere around the country as 
medical staff become increasingly frustrated by the lack of action from 
the national government. Nonetheless, the price of medicines continues to 
be a critical problem.

MSF has signed agreements with the Brazilian Ministry of Health (MoH) and 
Fiocruz, a public research body funded by the Brazilian government. The 
former established a cooperative agreement involving technical 
collaboration on the response to HIV/AIDS, so that MSF and the Brazilian 
MoH can collaborate to improve the delivery of treatment in resource-poor 
settings. The agreement with Fiocruz allows MSF to purchase antiretroviral 
drugs produced by FarManguinhos, the Brazilian national pharmaceutical 
producer, which is part of Fiocruz.

An innovative aspect of this arrangement is that the money MSF pays will 
go directly into research and development for AIDS and neglected diseases 
such as sleeping sickness, Chagas Disease and malaria (all diseases for 
which current treatment options are inadequate). 
MSF is currently using the antiretroviral drugs AZT, 3TC, co-formulated 
AZT/3TC, and nevirapine produced by FarManguinhos. By using these drugs 
the price per patient per day falls from US$3.20 to US$1.55.

In 1996, in response to pressure from civil society, the Brazilian 
government began providing free access to antiretroviral therapy to people 
with HIV/AIDS. This policy has allowed more than 100,000 people to receive 
antiretroviral therapy and reduced AIDS-related mortality by more than 
50%. Between 1997 and 2000, antiretroviral treatment has saved the 
Brazilian government $677 million on hospitalisations averted and 
treatment for opportunistic infections averted.

South Africa could launch a similar programme. To do so, the government 
needs to have access to the lowest cost medicines, whether they come from 
multinational pharmaceutical companies or from generic producers. This 
means both taking advantage of offers from multinational companies and 
being willing to seek compulsory licenses. These licenses can be used to 
produce these drugs locally or import them and are an important way to 
stimulate competition, which is a powerful tool to reduce prices.

Additional background information is available on the websites of  
MSF  and TAC

COSATU Statement on the Importation of Generic Antiretrovirals from Brazil

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and
the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have returned from a
visit to Brazil.  The delegation included Joyce Pekane, Second
Deputy President of COSATU, Zackie Achmat, Chairperson of
TAC, Nomandla Yako, and Matthew Demane, a person who is
living with AIDS and currently being treated with anti-retroviral

The delegates, hosted by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF),
looked at Brazilian HIV/AIDS treatment programmes, visited
factories which manufacture generic anti-retroviral medicines and
met government officials and people living with AIDS. The
Brazilian government has formally offered the South African
government help in fighting HIV/AIDS.

On their return the delegates brought back a batch of generic
anti-retroviral medicines for use by MSF in a treatment
programme in Khayelitsha. The Medicines Control Council
(MCC), having studied the safety of these medicines, has given a
Section 21 exemption which allows for them to be imported and
used by MSF.

The equivalent drugs are in fact available in South Africa,
produced by GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK) and Boehringer
Ingelheim. But they cost approximately R1000 per month
compared to the cost of R450 for the medicines being brought

The importation of these drugs for use under strict conditions by
MSF has been approved by the MCC. We are aware that it
may infringe patent rights. However, we believe that faced by an
emergency caused by AIDS, and in face of overwhelming
support for the government's view that patent rights should not
be used to deny people access to life-saving medicines that this
importation is in line with government and international policy.

COSATU, TAC and MSF stand by their belief that the
government and society as a whole must get anti-retroviral
medicines to the people who need then as quickly and
cheaply as possible and must not let the vested interests of multi-
national pharmaceutical manufacturers to prevent this.

This is why these medicines are being brought in. The MSF
programme in Khayelitsha is already improving the lives of over
80 people. With affordable medicines many more people could
be reached, not only in the Western Cape but throughout SA.

Patrick Craven and Moloto Mothapo
Acting COSATU Spokespersons
011 339 4911 0r 082 821 7456