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
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.
“When the history of our time is written, let it record the collective efforts of our societies responding to a threat that put the future of entire nations in the balance. Let future generations judge us on the adequacy of our response.”
-- President Thabo Mbeki on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 1 December 1999
"These failures [to deal with the HIV epidemic] start with a failure of leadership, beginning with the presidency and the Ministry of Health. Any health ministry that presides over the spread of an epidemic like this one has much to answer for. This lack of government leadership on HIV is a betrayal of our people and our struggle."
-- Cde Zwelinzima Vavi, Third TAC National Congress, 25/9/2005
“We come from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal ... we are dying waiting for hope and treatment in our provinces.”
This was a sentiment expressed by many of the 700 activists who participated in the Third TAC National Congress from 23 to 25 September 2005. The need for urgency in our actions, candour and unequivocal leadership expressed by President Mbeki when he launched the Partnership against AIDS is even greater today than before, as our country faces a dual crisis of death from AIDS and increasing HIV infections.
Congress participants included NGO leaders, union representatives and representatives of TAC’s over 13,000 members (and many more supporters) from six of South Africa’s nine provinces. This included Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, three of the provinces where the implementation of the government's treatment rollout is progressing most slowly.
The Congress heard from some of South Africa’s most reputable researchers and medical experts, that despite efforts to contain the spread of HIV and avert a crisis, death due to AIDS persists in our country. Multiple studies including a count of death certificates by Statistics South Africa show a massive rise in deaths due to the HIV epidemic. Over 800 people are dying of AIDS a day. Government's annual survey demonstrates an unabated increase in HIV infections, rising in 2004 to 29.5% of women surveyed in antenatal clinics. Yet, this year there was not even a comment from the Ministry of Health on the antenatal survey.
The Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS, Care, Management and Treatment said in 2003 already, that at least 400,000 people had AIDS and needed treatment. Against this in 2005, we cannot be satisfied that less than 80,000 people are receiving treatment through the public health sector (61,000 according to the Director-General of Health). The original treatment target for the end of financial year 2004/5 was over 180,000 (p. 52, Operational Plan, 19 November 2003, Dept. Health).
Congress participants lamented the growing burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the poor, particularly on women. They expressed that while everyone needs to commit greater effort to the fight against HIV/AIDS, greater leadership on the side of government is needed and that the President now has to provide this leadership.
The statement made by Zwelinzima Vavi, which is now a source of much debate, reinforced sentiments of people living with HIV and those who bear the heaviest brunt of the epidemic: poor people and particularly poor women.
The participants regretted that the despite timely invitation to address the TAC congress, the Department of Health decided to decline all invitations.
The inaction of the health ministry and government on the issue of Mathias Rath’s undermining of government's policy to provide antiretroviral treatment is one of the signs that politically endorsed denial has not ended in our country. The persistent prevarication by our Minister of Health, which goes unchallenged by President Mbeki, is a source of demoralisation and despair for many people and communities in our country whose lives are threatened by HIV.
We believe that politically supported denialism is a major factor in our country’s inadequate response to the HIV epidemic. Institutions such as the South African National AIDS Council are rudderless and dysfunctional. Unless HIV prevention and treatment is said to be a priority by the President, then the present often hopeless situation will continue.
It is for these reasons that TAC fully supports the truth-telling done in the statement by Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, General-Secretary of COSATU at the National Congress. Similar statements were made at the Congress by reverend Molefe Tsele, General-Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and veteran ANC activist Cheryl Carolus.
We believe silence about this crisis and the political failures that underlie it are a failure of morality and a betrayal of the lives of thousands in our country who are affected by HIV.
We therefore call on all civil society and organisations, including big business, to demand leadership and a new partnership against AIDS based on urgency and compassion. Particularly, we ask the following of our President:
- Declare that the HIV epidemic is an emergency.
- Acknowledge the crisis of death due to the HIV epidemic in South Africa.
- Acknowledge the impact of the HIV epidemic on the rights and health of women in particular.
- Acknowledge the crisis of HIV prevention in South Africa and take urgent steps to reduce new HIV infections.
- Take steps to meet the treatment targets of the Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care, Management and Treatment for South Africa (Operational Plan), targets which government is failing to meet.
- Denounce HIV denialism and, in particular, charlatans like Matthias Rath and Tine van der Maas who cause confusion and death.
TAC notes the disappointing and defensive response by the Ministry of Health to Vavi's speech. It wilfully misrepresented his comments, instead of referring to what he actually said. The Ministry's statement contains no substantive response to his main challenge: that politically supported HIV denialism has resulted in inadequate HIV prevention, a struggling health system and far too few people on treatment.
Instead, the Ministry chose, once more, to launch a gratuitous attack on TAC and COSATU through statements such as the following "Vavi has abdicated his responsibility and allowed COSATU's policy positions to be driven by an antiretroviral drug lobby group - the TAC."
The Ministry should realise that COSATU and Vavi's support for TAC are informed by the effect of the HIV epidemic on COSATU members. Referring to TAC as an antiretroviral drug lobby group is wishful thinking. TAC is more than a 'lobby group'; it is a movement of over 13,000 members and thousands more supporters. The Minister of Health knows that TAC’s activities have also included extensive community education efforts, nutrition, prevention and campaigns to bring down the prices of opportunistic infection and antiretroviral medicines. It is tragic that the Ministry of Health cannot honestly claim to have made a successful effort on any of these issues.
When the history of our time is written, let it record that our country found the courage to confront its fears and the monsters which stood in the way of a future it had fought for and defended with everything it had. Our President must lead us in finding that courage.
We endorse the demands made by Comrade Vavi and believe that these should be publicly endorsed by all those fighting HIV in our society: