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Dear [SANAC MEMBER]
Great progress has been made on HIV/AIDS over the past nine months between government and civil society. It has built enormous goodwill and trust and has resulted in the restructuring of the South African National AIDS Council and the development of a comprehensive National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and AIDS. We wish for this newfound spirit of goodwill, trust and unity to be maintained and, above all, we wish for the 2007-2011 NSP to be fully implemented and continually monitored.
Sadly we feel that much of the momentum which led to the development of the NSP and the restructuring of SANAC has been lost. It worries us that the Ministry of Health’s commitment to the many activities, goals and objectives of the NSP is unclear.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), broader civil society, business and the faith-based sector are integral to SANAC. We commit to work that will realise the NSP’s targets and timeframes on prevention, treatment, care and human rights.
Government is however indispensable to the successful implementation of the NSP. It has the resources but most importantly, government has the Constitutional duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to life, dignity, freedom, equality and health of all people in South Africa.
At this stage we ask every member of SANAC to consider the following statement by the Constitutional Court in the PMTCT case.
The magnitude of the HIV/AIDS challenge facing the country calls for a concerted, co-ordinated and co-operative national effort in which government in each of its three spheres and the panoply of resources and skills of civil society are marshalled, inspired and led. This can be achieved only if there is proper communication, especially by government. In order for it to be implemented optimally, a public health programme must be made known effectively to all concerned, down to the district nurse and patients. Indeed, for a public programme such as this to meet the constitutional requirement of reasonableness, its contents must be made known appropriately.
The Health Department is crucial to the implementation of the NSP. Although the plan is a multi-sectoral partnership agreement, under the leadership of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, the Health Department has an inescapable duty to provide quality health services, safe health information and access to safe means for HIV prevention. We believe that it is still not doing enough.
As the first proper plenary of SANAC gets underway the TAC and our allies would like to bring to your urgent attention the following documents which lay out a number of our current concerns:
1. The open letter from the
and Chairperson of SANAC. In this letter, sent on the 21 August 2007 and later published widely in the media, we urged government to confirm its commitment to the NSP and asked for Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka’s continued leadership for its effective implementation.
by the AIDS Law Project (ALP) acting on behalf of the TAC. The letter advocates for a revision of the national treatment guidelines for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, namely for the immediate implementation of a dual-therapy PMTCT protocol and the treatment of pregnant women with a CD4 count of 350 and below in the public health system.
3. The final documents relate to the extension of NSP goals to correctional centres. One is an article by Mr. Jonathan Berger of the ALP, which gives a detailed synopsis of the TAC’s ongoing legal battle against Westville Correctional Centre and the Departments of Correctional Services and Health to provide HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support services to prisoners. The second is a slide show presentation presented by Mr. Berger at the 2007 Durban AIDS Conference outlining the requirements necessary for a national framework for a comprehensive HIV and AIDS plan in South African correctional centres. This presentation reflects a set of agreements reached between government and civil society on a national framework fo r HIV/AIDS related services in prisons. These agreements have, however, yet to be officially ratified.
These letters do not contain “demands”. They are in line with the NSP and national policy. The delay in their implementation runs counter to the spirit that government, civil society, business, labour and the international community agreed to in late 2006.
As TAC, we are committed to unity. But saving lives through prevention, treatment and care will always be our first priority. We will strive not to return to conflict. But while working with government under the leadership of the Deputy-President we will maintain the pressure and vigilance that is our duty when we face a crisis of this magnitude.
We do not need to remind you that nearly 1000 people still die daily of AIDS and almost as many are newly infected with HIV. The NSP calls on us to stop this. As leaders who have accepted to be members of SANAC a heavy moral and ethical duty falls on your shoulders. Millions of lives literally depend on your leadership.
We therefore trust that you will give each of these documents your due consideration before the plenary meeting of SANAC on the 10th of September.
Yours in struggle
Zackie Achmat (TAC National Chairperson),
Lihle Dlamini (TAC Secretariat Member),
Mashudu Mfomande (TAC Secretariat Member)