TAC Electronic Newsletter
1 July 2003
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Where do we stand with Government? Where to
from here for TAC?
PLEASE DISTRIBUTE WIDELY
1 July 2003
A Treatment and Prevention Plan: Where do we stand with Government?
Where to from here for TAC?
In late April, TAC suspended its civil disobedience campaign following
our meeting with Deputy-President Zuma. However, presently there is
growing concern among TAC members and volunteers that we have received
very little in return from government. A commitment to a treatment and
prevention plan that includes antiretroviral therapy is still far from
certain. As one activist explained in a meeting discussing civil
disobedience in Johannesburg, we can suspend the civil disobedience
campaign, but we cannot suspend the pain of people with HIV/AIDS and
their friends and families.
We are at a critical turning point in South Africa's response to the
HIV epidemic. TAC suspended its civil disobedience campaign to give
government the space and opportunity to commit, on its own terms, to a
treatment and prevention plan that includes antiretroviral therapy.
There were some positive signs that the Cabinet would soon make such a
commitment. We are aware that the costing study conducted by the task
team composed of members of the treasury and health departments was
completed and awaited approval by Cabinet since April. Furthermore, the
Treasury put aside contingency money for treatment in the 2003/04 budget
clearing the way for a change in policy. The NEDLAC negotiations were
also to have resumed. TAC's meetings with the Deputy-President on 25
April and with a number of Cabinet ministers at the SANAC meeting on 14
June gave hope that there were some leaders in government who recognised
the urgency and the moral and legal imperatives to extend access to
antiretrovirals to South Africa's poor as part of the national
response. In addition, the Western Cape MEC for Health recently made it
clear that it is a matter of time before government begins rolling out
an antiretroviral treatment programme. In private discussions, this
sentiment has been echoed by a number of senior civil servants.
These were tangible reasons to be hopeful and to give government the
benefit of the doubt by suspending civil disobedience. It is in all our
interests for a treatment and prevention plan to be attained via a
voluntary change in government policy, rather than via civil
disobedience and litigation at the Constitutional Court. If we have to
resume the latter route, the treatment programmes that will ultimately
be implemented are unlikely to be as successful as a plan implemented by
a government that is politically committed to treatment. Despite protest
by government that it has a "five year strategic plan", we still believe
that the existing plan is inadequate and that policy to treat has to be
much more rigorously monitored in its implementation if it is to be
But the TAC leadership is being continually reminded that there is a
limit to the patience of people confronting their own mortality.
Government cannot dither any longer. The timeframe for decisions to be
taken is now days, at most weeks, not months. Every delay is measured
not in inconvenience, but in death and suffering. If TAC is being
mislead and if government promises have been in bad faith, the
subsequent return to civil disobedience will be more intense than
before, involve much larger numbers of people and will not be suspended
or stopped without the implementation of a treatment plan.
A report that appeared in the Star (27 June) is reprinted in this
newsletter. It points out serious government delays such as the failure
to date to sign the Global Fund agreements, the failure to release the
costing study on antiretroviral treatment which merely needs the
go-ahead from Cabinet and the failure to release the latest antenatal
clinic study. To this we can add the failure to officially release the
report that was produced at the HST scientists conference last year. We
hope that there are no longer senior people in government who intend to
scupper moves towards treatment. However, if there are, we cannot appeal
to your conscience. We cannot ask you to consider the lives and
suffering of hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens. Instead we
must appeal to your self-interest and ask: are you willing to risk the
sustained pressure of civil disobedience, international embarrassment
and litigation through to the April 2004 general elections and beyond?
In the meanwhile, irrespective of which route government chooses and as
TAC prepares for its provincial and national congresses over the next
month, activists must prepare for a new phase in TAC in which we
consolidate our branches so that they are better equipped to assist with
the implementation of the government's current programmes and any new
ones that might become policy, such as antiretroviral treatment. It
would be wrong of TAC to expect government to take sole responsibility
for the health interventions for which we have advocated. Our duty to
ensure their successful implementation is critical. Therefore, in this
issue of the electronic newsletter, we have included two important
discussion documents that are being circulated at TAC branches. One,
written by Zackie Achmat, examines the role and responsibilities of TAC
branches. The other, written by Sipho Mthathi, gives concrete
suggestions for how TAC branches can ensure that people become educated
about HIV issues.
Let us work together to implement a successful treatment and prevention
plan that will build a better health care system.
[BACK TO CONTENTS]
TAC National Congress
Treat the People - Mobilise Communities and Clinics for HIV
Prevention and Treatment Access
The TAC National Congress will take place from 1 to 3 August at
Coastlands in Durban. A critical function of this Congress will be to
resolve how TAC needs to strengthen its branches to ensure the
improvement of public clinics and the implementation of a treatment and
prevention plan. A new TAC National Executive Committee will also be
We will also mobilise support for a treatment and prevention plan at
the first South African AIDS Conference in Durban.
[BACK TO CONTENTS]
It's all talk, no action as people succumb to
By Lynne Altenroxel, The Star, 27 June 2003
Just a few days ago, time finally ran out for Jenny*, an HIV-positive
nurse who worked at a government hospital in Southern Gauteng.
Ever since she started working at the hospital thee years ago, she had
seen deaths of countless Aids patients in her care. By this year, five
to 10 Aids patients were dying each week in the medical wards where she
worked. Witnessing their painful demise made her fearful of her own
fate. She knew, she said a few weeks ago, that it was the same way she
would go too. Jenny died at her parents' home on June 12 without
ever accessing the antiretrovirals which could have spared her from an
early death at the age of 29. A short six months after passing her
staff nurse exams with distinction in November, she had become one of
the 600 South Africans dying daily as a result of HIV.
She died frustrated and angered by government delays in implementing a
programme to provide antiretroviral treatment to people who needed
it. "She was very, very angry. Up to the last day she was very
angry," a colleague recalled, describing how she knew that Jenny was
distraught by witnessing the deaths of the people she nursed.
"I would see that she was really affected. She wouldn't want to talk
when she came out of there She wouldn't even want to eat when she came
out of dealing with a very sick patient."
Now, several days after Jenny's death, there is still no answer to the
question of whether the government will ever provide anti-Aids drugs to
people who cannot afford them. On Wednesday the cabinet met again
without discussing a report on the cost of providing antiretroviral
therapy - even though more than two months have passed since the report
was finalized. For people living with HIV, it seems as if there is
no sense of urgency about dealing with an issue which, for them, is a
matter of life and death. Lifeline counselor Isaac Skosana, who is
HIV-positive, will tomorrow bury one friend who succumbed to the virus.
On Wednesday, as the cabinet met without discussing anti-Aids drugs, be
"What I hear is only promises. Bt commitment and things that are
practical, I see nothing," said Skosana, who is healthy but dreads the
day when his immune system needs antiretrovirals to prop it up. "I
know there is a time when I'll need them. When that time comes, what
must I do? Wait?" he asked. Like Skosana, HIV-positive Nonhlanhla
Kubheka is also watching her friends die Aids-related deaths. "I'm
willing and I'm wishing and I'm praying that they'll come with a
decision today" she said. "I feel very angry because people are
dying. Last week. I buried three of my best friends because of HIV."
One of them, a policeman, died after a brave fight against Kaposi's
sarcoma, a type of cancer which leaves purplish-brown marks on the skin
and internal organs, and which usually only effects people with
"He promised that he wouldn't die before a cure was found - and now
he's dead." Kubheka said.
Kubheka is one of many HIV-infected South Africans who are angry about
the lack of action. Motivational speaker Anne Leon, whose immune system
has reached a crucial point at which she needs to start taking anti-Aids
drugs, says she is angry too. Blood tests have shown that her CD4
count - a measure of her immunity -
is down to 244. Experts recommend that triple therapy be started when
patients' CD4 count is 350. Ideally, she should have started anti-Aids
treatment a long time ago.
"I feel angry that the government isn't doing their part," Leon said.
"It's all talk and no action." Many people living with HIV are also
Buhle* has been hoping to get antiretrovirals since she first heard
about them three years ago. "I'm tired of waiting. It's three years
now," she said.
"I'm scared because there are a lot of people who need drugs but they
didn't get then and they are dying." Buhle buried her best friend,
who was also HIV-positive, on June 14. For health professionals such
as Sister Sue Roberts, head of Helen Joseph Hospital's HIV clinic, the
list of people in desperate need of antiretrovirals is growing.
The clinic diagnoses 80 to 90 new HIV infections in patients each week.
More than half of the HIV patients on its database are in desperate need
of treatment, with less than 5% able to afford to buy the drugs
themselves. "We've had a lot of patients who could have done
extremely well on drugs. And a lot of them are no longer with us,"
So many people are dying without treatment that nurses who suspect they
are HIV infected are reluctant to acknowledge that they, too, have the
virus. "One of the biggest problems with healthcare workers is that
they see that nothing is done for HIV, so they don't come forward,"
Roberts explained. "They're petrified of being identified as
positive... because they're seeing sick patients dying in front of them
all the time." * Names have been changed to protect identity.
1. The Global Fund agreement
It's well over a year since the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and
(GFATM) agreed to give KwaZulu-Natal US$72-million for a multi-pronged
approach against HIV which included the provision of anti-Aids drugs.
Global Fund head Professor Richard Feachem arrived in South Africa in
to sign an agreement over the donation, which had been vehemently
by Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. At the last minute the
government refused to sign the deal, but issued a statement which said
that: "A senior representative of the Fund will be visiting South
the course of May and the agreements will, without fail, be signed
this visit. Programme implementation will begin by the end of May 2003."
But no signing has ever taken place.
2. The costing study
It's been nearly a year since the government appointed a task team to
investigate the costs of providing antiretroviral triple therapy. The
team's report, which recommends provision of treatment, has been ready
since April. But a final decision based on the report can only be made
the cabinet, which has yet to discuss the document.
3. The antenatal survey
The government's annual survey of HIV prevalence rates among pregnant
women, which takes place in October, is just three months away. Survey
results are usually released in the first quarter of the following year
provide valuable information for planning by healthcare bodies and Aids
charities. Tshabalala-Msimang has alluded to the results in a public
- an indication that they are available - but the results of last year's
survey have still not been released.
Several calls were made to the Department of Health for comment on the
reasons behind the delays, but the department never responded.
[BACK TO CONTENTS]
Friends of TAC Launched in Britain
Friends of TAC has been launched in Britain
London, 24 June 2003 - An organisation called Friends of TAC has been
formed. Its primary purposes are to support the aims and objectives of
TAC and its projects. ANC member and former South African MP, Andrew
Feinsten was elected chair. Chris Woods was elected treasurer and Rachel
Holmes was elected secretary.
Feinstein was removed as chair of the Public Service and Management
Accounts Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for his interrogation of and
opposition to the multi-billion rand arms deal. Feinstein subsequently
resigned from Parliament, but remains an ANC member. TAC is honoured
that someone of Feinstein's integrity has chosen to mobilise public
support in Britain for treatment.
To assist or join Friends of TAC (FoTAC) Britain, please contact Rachel
Holmes on email@example.com
[BACK TO CONTENTS]
Building Branches to Organise for Treatment
As TAC completes the first phase of our civil disobedience campaign, it
is a very good time to reflect on our strategy and tactics over the next
two years. How can we ensure that people get medicines and how can we
ensure that there is a decent public health system for all people?
All TAC volunteers/members and supporters believe in the rights to
life, dignity, equality, freedom, health care access, social security
access and social justice. These are principles we cannot compromise.
TAC has succeeded because we understand that HIV/AIDS is a political
issue. But we know HIV/AIDS is not a party political issue because it
affects all people. HIV/AIDS is political because of inequality.
Prevention, treatment and care remain hampered by social and political
inequalities at every level of society. Gender inequality, poverty,
migrant labour and sexual taboos produce vulnerability to HIV within our
communities. Personal, family, local community, provincial, national
and international relations all affect whether we have access to
prevention, care, treatment and how we are exposed to the risks of HIV
transmission. We see the need for HIV prevention and treatment as an
essential part of the struggle to ensure human rights, security, gender
equality and social justice.
TAC has succeeded because we rely on science as our best ally. We do
not have the truth. We seek the truth through good science, medicine and
expertise. In using good science and good faith, TAC does not leave
decisions to experts but we educate ourselves in the best scientific
traditions to understand medicines and society. We rely on rigorous
research and base ourselves on real facts and experience.
Treatment and scientific literacy have become TAC watchwords. We
communicate in every way possible - songs, emails, newspapers, videos,
televisions, newsletters, leaflets and posters. TAC does this because
many of our members cannot read, many are educated but do not understand
science or health policy. We must reach everyone in society - urban or
rural, rich or poor, black or white. We create our own media and we use
every media outlet to get our message across - local newspapers, TV,
radio (community, regional and national stations). As the comrades in
KwaZulu-Natal say: "Knowledge is a public asset"
TAC is proud of our democracy, our tradition of struggle, our
Constitution and our democratic institutions. We have educated our
members about the Medicines Control Council (MCC) and the importance of
the scientific and independent regulation of medicines. The role of
patents, globalisation, compulsory licences, multinational corporations,
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and access to medicines remains an
ongoing education process for all TAC activists and leaders. Many people
in our country learnt about profiteering and patent abuse when TAC
illegally imported fluconazole from Thailand. TAC members gave the
legal concept amicus curiae (friend of the court) widespread currency
when we fought the multinational drug companies alongside the South
African government. We won this battle because we educated ourselves and
our members on the need for international solidarity - across the globe
people joined our battle. Our members and broader South Africa leant
that our Constitution and the courts have a real meaning for poor people
when we challenged government in the MTCT case and won. Parliament and
its committees are not strange to ordinary TAC members. We have marched
to parliament, we have picketed parliament, we have given evidence to
Parliament, we support good legislation and we criticize shoddy laws.
TAC members try to understand the budget. We learnt about the Medical
Research Council and the Human Rights Commission. TAC gave the word
NEDLAC meaning to many people who are not members of unions or business
organisations. Many ordinary people in our country had not heard about
the Competition Commission until TAC used it together with Cosatu,
CEPPAWU and many allies to expose excessive prices by multinational drug
Many of our members and broader society learnt the need to work
together through TAC - we work with anyone who believes in the right to
life, dignity, equality, freedom and access to health care.
TAC has organised marches with tens of thousands of people throughout
our country. We have come to the point of civil disobedience because of
the government's denial, foot-dragging, deliberate misrepresentation and
allowing unnecessary deaths. Where has this strength come from?
Our strength comes from nearly 10 000 ordinary people living with and
affected by HIV/AIDS who identify as TAC volunteers or members. Most
are poor. Many, many have HIV/AIDS. The majority are women but we have
many young men who are willing to learn and change. Some are wealthy.
Some have education. All of us have seen people die. We watch as their
CD4 count declines and the HIV viral load explodes. All of us give our
time, energy, love, anger, privilege and patience to the cause of
preventing a holocaust against the poor.
Our strength comes from our branches, provincial and national leaders.
It also comes from working with other sectors: unions, faith-based
organisations, lesbian and gay groups and many others have supported TAC
campaigns. Now is the time to ask how can we create a social movement
that will ensure a decent public health service for all people and a
serious HIV/AIDS treatment plan. TAC branch development, treatment
literacy programmes and our constitutional rights are the only tools we
have at our disposal for this task. We must build a TAC branch and
treatment literacy programme in every health care district in the
country. This will strengthen primary health care delivery, assist in
local development and ensure access to a range of social services other
If government signs the Treatment and Prevention Plan and begins to
provide ARVs, we will need such a force to help health workers and
people with HIV/AIDS. If government does not sign such a programme, we
will need a force that will challenge it at every level and also ensure
that we access resources to provide treatment. This means orienting all
TAC forces to the development of branches in every health district in
the country. It means assisting existing branches with better education,
treatment literacy, activist skills and resources.
At the moment TAC has more than 110 branches in Eastern Cape, Free
State (pending), Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western
Cape. We also provide support to very large numbers of HIV/AIDS support
groups. Branches vary in strength and in leadership quality. Sometimes
provincial leaders (staff and NEC members) see the power and potential
of our branches, other times we see it as a burden.
Our entire national apparatus must be organised to realise the
potential of strong branches in every health district.
WHAT DO BRANCHES DO?
In various ways, all branches have at least eight identifiable and
inter-related functions: Education (Treatment Literacy and Political
Education); Public awareness and mobilisation; Local Network building;
Health Service support and monitoring; Creating and developing support
groups; Lobbying with MPs, councils and other institutions at local
level; Supporting development and social security campaigns.
Education is the first and most important function of a branch.
Knowledge is one of the most important benefits any TAC member/volunteer
receives. We learn about medicines; about TAC history; about the
science and the political economy of HIV and many other issues. TAC
branch education takes two forms: (a) Internal education that combines
political education about HIV/AIDS and treatment literacy. (b) Public
treatment literacy work is provided to community groups, religious
organisations, trade unions at local level. We also learn about the law,
the enforcement of rights and good governance. TAC's national and
provincial treatment literacy co-ordinators provide the human and
material resources for this work.
Every branch must develop an internal and external education plan with
their treatment literacy co-ordinator. Treatment literacy must be
integrated with organising work and the building of TAC.
PUBLIC AWARENESS, LOCAL MEDIA AND MOBILISATION
Branches distribute material (and condoms) at taxi ranks, shopping
centers and clinics. Branches paint murals and conduct door-to-door
visits. This raises public awareness on treatment issues and the role
of TAC. Branch leaders work with local media such as community radio
stations, newsletters and drama groups. We also use video, organize
marches, petitions and support provincial and national mobilization.
Youth, schools, clinics, clubs, shebeens, shopping centers, churches,
mosques, synagogues and temples are vital to developing public awareness
on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.
Every TAC branch must have a serious mobilization strategy. We must
recruit new members, volunteers and supporters. Every member and branch
must write for and distribute Equal Treatment, the TAC newsletter
LOCAL NETWORK BUILDING
Many TAC branches have good working relationships with other
community-based organisations. We work together. There are children's
organisations, women's groups, religious youth groups, AIDS
organisations, development organisations and many other bodies. We must
have a plan to visit and educate all organisations. TAC branches must
support at least one event sponsored by a local ally or organisation
every month. For instance, if a local children's organisation organises
an event to promote children's health, we must ensure that the whole
branch supports it as if it was a TAC event. But, we must not take over
other people's work.
Every TAC branch must have a list of local organisations. We must visit
them regularly based on a branch work-plan. TAC branches must ensure
that local organisations have information about our campaigns and that
they participate regularly in treatment literacy work.
HEALTH SERVICE SUPPORT AND MONITORING
Our clinics are over-worked. Sometimes, they have too few nurses, no
medicines, phones that do not work and many other problems. This
demoralises health care workers and people who use the clinics. TAC
members and volunteers must change this. Every branch must adopt at
least one clinic. At the moment TAC is organising a clinic survey.
This is to ensure that TAC members know what is available in their
clinics. TAC members must also help their clinics get the staff, budget,
information, medicines and training that it needs to serve the local
community. Provincial co-ordinators must learn about and explain the
district health system to all branches. In this way, we must ensure that
clinics and hospitals serve the interest of all people in our
communities. Later in the year TAC will organise provincial meetings of
nurses, doctors and other health workers in the public sector to join
hands in campaigning for better health care for all.
SUPPORTING SUPPORT GROUPS
Many support groups are active in TAC. We support the work of many
support groups. Why? There are many personal, social, emotional, legal
and health problems that individuals with HIV/AIDS face. It is our job
to ensure that every support group has the tools that it needs to do
this job. We must make sure that support groups become centers of
strength for people living with HIV/AIDS. Every branch must have a list
of support groups or where there are no support groups, branches must
start support groups. TAC branches must compile a list of good doctors;
bad doctors; clinics; pharmacies; good religious leaders; children's
organisations; paralegals and other local and provincial agencies that
can assist the work of support groups.
Every councilor, MP (provincial and national) who has an office in your
branch area must be visited. Priority must be given to the ANC because
it is the party that rules the country and has the power to change
things. But, all political parties must be lobbied. Make sure they
understand TAC and they know about HIV/AIDS treatment and care. Ask
them to help monitor health services and to ensure that the needs of
poor people and poor communities are always a priority.
SOCIAL JUSTICE CAMPAIGNS
As an organization, TAC supports every effort to end poverty, to create
jobs, to improve health, housing, education, water and transport for all
people. TAC is affiliated to campaigns to improve the grant system. We
support the extension of the child support grant to all children under
18 and the abolition of the means test. We also support the campaign for
a basic income grant (BIG). TAC branches must be actively engaged in
campaigns for social and food security for all people.
THE ROAD FORWARD
All branch infrastructure must be strengthened. How can branches get
access to computers and other information? Every TAC branch needs the
- A good meeting place
- A book for minutes
- A book to maintain TAC accounts
- A membership list and membership forms for new members
- A place to store all TAC materials that members need for their
- Lists of all local organisations, support groups, religious
leaders and groups, councilors, clinics, hospitals, pharcmacies, schools
and other bodies to network with and to keep informed of TAC activities
- A record book that keeps a list and report of all events
- A list with the contact details of all TAC provincial and
Every branch must discuss this document and send a list of suggestions
on how to build branches to Zackie Achmat and Mandla Majola. We also
need ideas for a code of conduct for members and office-bearers.
[BACK TO CONTENTS]
TREATMENT EDUCATION - NOW MORE THAN
Since its inception, TAC has struggled in different ways to make
treatment available to those who will die without it. We know that about
200 000 people died in our country in 2002 due to AIDS related
infections. There are many reasons people die of AIDS related
illnesses: it can be because (1) they or those caring for them do not
know that HIV Opportunistic Infections (OIs) can be treated, (2) they
know that OIs can be treated but do not have access to the medicines as
they are not available at clinics or hospitals, (3) they do not know
about antiretrovirals that can prolong life of people living with HIV or
(4) they know of antiretrovirals but cannot afford them.
TAC has tried to address some of these problems by advocating for a
National Treatment Plan. But TAC has not only asked government to
implement this plan and waited. We have already started implementing
aspects of it including: going to clinics and hospitals to make sure
that the medicines needed by people living with HIV are available,
educating people living with HIV, their carers and communities about
their rights and the treatments themselves so that they know what to ask
for when they go to clinics. We do this education through our Treatment
One of the big problems is that many health care workers have just seen
people with HIV die and for them HIV/AIDS is a disease people die from
and not one which people can live with for long. Therefore, when
activists say people must be given treatment some health care workers
and people in charge of our health care system think we are misleading
people or are trying to cause trouble.
This continues to be a problem of many in our government. As a result,
we see our government, especially health departments, spending a lot of
money on home based care and not on ensuring that our clinics have
regular supplies of medicines or that health care workers are trained to
diagnose illnesses and treat them accordingly or that communities are
educated about HIV treatments and how they work so that people do not
die from illnesses that can be treated with medicines that are
As we move towards the co-ordinated and collective implementation of a
National Treatment and Prevention Plan, our responsibility as people
living with HIV/AIDS, those caring for us, Priests and Bishops, Teachers
and Students, community members, government departments, workplaces and
especially TAC activists becomes more difficult and easier at the same
Our task is difficult because we must now all learn about: the science
of HIV, how our bodies are made and how they work, the immune and other
systems, the relationship between our bodies and gems that can make us
ill, how medicines work - their benefits, side effects and limitations,
antiretroviral therapy, the potential benefits and limitations of
"alternative or herbal home remedies" many of us have grown to trust,
etc. For long we have been able to rely on doctors, nurses, scientists
and others to take charge of our health. But HIV puts a new challenge
on all of us. We have to take charge of our own health; we have to
become experts in HIV/AIDS and how we can use medicines to improve our
health. With Medicines like antiretrovirals, the nurse or the doctor are
an important part but just one part of what is needed to make them work.
For medicines to be effective, we have to know how and how not to take
them, with what kinds of foods or other medicines, what short and long
term effects the medicines have, what to do to prevent side effects and
how to manage them when they do occur.
Our biggest job is ahead of us. To do this we will need lots of
support. Our communities need to be educated and mobilised to be ready
to give this support when South Africa starts implementing a national
treatment and prevention plan that includes antiretrovirals.
HOW AND WHERE DO WE LEARN ABOUT ALL THESE THINGS?
The Treatment Action Campaign has produced a lot of materials that can
be used by people without much medical background.
To put posters up, if you do not have wall paper glue, you can make a
runny mixture of the white flour we use for bread, smear it all over the
back of the poster and paste it on a wall. Try not to use Prestik as it
dries up quickly and the posters will not stick for long. As a branch,
you can turn this into an activity and invite willing community members
to help you. This way you get your community involved in your work as a
branch and you can attract more members. You can plan to cover all the
places you choose over a month and have a special day every week where
you cover an area and finish it. As we put up the posters, we must tell
people who are watching what we are putting up and invite them to come
and read. It can help to put contact details for your local branch
neatly written on the poster or on a visible piece of paper next to the
- A set of 7 posters dealing with HIV Opportunistic Infections has
been developed and should soon be available at all TAC offices in
English, Xhosa, Zulu, Suthu, Tswana, Afrikaans, Venda, Tsonga and
Sepedi. These must be put up at all clinics, hospitals, schools, taxi
ranks and other places where people can see them.
- An information poster on antiretrovirals. This one is available
in English for now and will be translated into other languages. Your
branch can take the initiative to translate it into a language mostly
spoken in your area and ask the National office to print copies for you
in your preferred language.
- An information poster on preventing Mother To Child Transmission
of HIV. Available in English, Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans
Ask your Provincial office for other materials you can put up in your
community in this way.
If there is a support group in your area make sure that they have
copies of all these posters and discuss them with members of the support
You can also make your own posters about an issue you feel your
community needs to know about. You do not have to wait for the national
office to do this.
HIV IN OUR LIVES: A BOOK OF INFOSHEETS ON HIV/AIDS
TAC, together with the AIDS Law Project, has developed a book of
information sheets dealing with many different aspects HIV/AIDS. It is
called HIV IN OUR LIVES and will soon be available from all TAC offices
and branches. This book is developed for use by all those interested in
learning about HIV/AIDS, especially people living with HIV in support
groups. It is in English at the moment. When money becomes available, we
will translate and print it in different languages. However, in the
meantime, your branch can translate the infosheet you want to use and
discuss it with your members. The idea is that TAC branches, doctors,
nurses in clinics and hospitals and other organisations will make
photocopies of single infosheets and make them available to patients who
come to clinics and hospitals. Anyone can do the same in their church,
YOUR DOCTORS, NURSES, COUNSELLORS ARE YOUR ASSETS
Although TAC takes responsibility for educating its members through
structured training workshops and discussion sessions, we do not have
capacity to reach all our branches at the same time. But all our members
must know these things if we are going to campaign effectively for the
services to be implemented where we are. Therefore, even though not all
Nurses, Doctors and Counsellors have accurate information about HIV/AIDS
and treatment, some do have the information or know someone who does and
we must ask them to help us. You can make a list of all doctors in your
area whether they work in private practices or in local public clinics
Make a list of all the things you want to know about HIV/AIDS and
treatment. Introduce yourselves to the doctor, nurse or counsellor as a
TAC branch and ask them to help you with training where they can. Tell
them about the things you do in your community and that you do your work
for free. This will encourage them to help you and show you where you
can get extra assistance.
If the doctor, nurse or counsellor does not know something, contact
your Provincial or National office to assist them to find the
information you need.
You can have a schedule of days when you want to do workshops.
HOW DO WE DO TREATMENT EDUCATION IN OUR COMMUNITY?
The posters and visual materials will help a lot, but you can do many
other things as well.
- Use visual materials - Treatment Access Poster Series
- A series of exhibition posters with stories and photographs of
people living with HIV or fighting for access to medicines for people
living with HIV was developed with a photographer called Gideon Mendel.
This is a very useful tool we can use in branches for education at
public places. We can ask our local library, museum, clinic, hospital,
school or community hall for space to exhibit the posters and have a
table with all other TAC materials and registration forms for others who
want to join TAC. We can run this as an exhibition going for a week or
few days combined with ongoing education as groups come in and out. Each
branch can translate these stories into a local language and print them
on a piece of paper put next to the relevant posters for those who
cannot read English.
- Other branches have made tape recordings of the stories and play
them for those who cannot read but can see the pictures.
- Show Videos and facilitate discussion
- Community Health Media Trust has produced a series of Treatment
Literacy Videos dealing with different aspects of HIV and HIV
treatments. All TAC offices have copies of these and a branch can borrow
a set for viewing by members or for a public activity where they show
the videos to the community. During your Community Health Day of Action
you can ask your local clinics or hospital or another organisation for a
video machine and show these to the public. The public can ask questions
and you can answer these as a branch. You can also invite doctors and
nurses for these days to help you answer questions. Do not be afraid if
you cannot answer a question, admit that you do not know everything and
that you will find an answer and come back to the person asking.
- An organisation called "Steps to the future" has also developed
videos on HIV/AIDS that you can use. Ask your TAC office where you can
- Make a song about an issue
- Create a drama play and perform it in your community
TAC activists have made many songs about HIV illnesses, HIV treatments,
Testing for HIV, using condoms, using our rights to ensure better
services, etc. In many communities, music has a special place. It is the
one medium all people can relate to and we must use it to assist our
work. For people who cannot read, a song can be very effective to teach
about an issue. Songs are also good because all age groups can relate to
them. Once you have discussed an issue as a branch, you can make
different songs to simplify the messages and scientific concepts.
An example is the song TAC activists sing about preventing Mother To
Child Transmission of HIV. It goes:
AZT siyayazi, ikhusela bantwana kwiHIV, jikekele
Nevirapine siyayazi, ikhusela bantwana kwiHIV, jikekele
MTCT Prevention, MTCT Prevention
(we know AZT and Nevirapine can protect children from HIV, MTCT
You can sing these songs at clinics, schools, taxi ranks as you do
education to complement your presentations. They are good because you
can easily teach to the whole group and the whole group can become
involved in your education. People remember songs more than words. You
can make your own book of songs as a branch and even record these for
your branch. If there is a local radio station, you can ask them for a
short slot and play these songs now and then as part of your mass
You can decide to have a community health day every second week of the
month where you march around wearing your HIV positive T-shirts,
carrying posters, distributing condoms and singing your songs. Remember
to distribute a short pamphlet with contact details for your local
branch when doing these. The community will remember the messages in
your songs and will join your march because the songs attract them.
MAKE A DRAMA AND ACT IT OUT FOR THE COMMUNITY
Short dramas can help a lot to make things clear for people and help
communities see a different picture of something. Dramas are one of the
ways in which many communities communicate to each other. You can take
the community's experiences and highlight them for the community to
reflect on through a drama. For example, if there is a problem with
stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV in your community
you can make a drama that shows one example of this and then also show
how and why this is wrong and give an alternative way of responding
through your drama.
As another example you can show someone who is diagnosed HIV positive,
does not know that HIV opportunistic infections can be treated and
thinks he or she will die. Then show through your drama that if he or
she goes for treatment as soon as he or she becomes ill, he or she will
not die unnecessarily. You can do the same to publicise services like
social grants and highlight other problems like women abuse if it is a
problem in your community.
There are also other forms of drama that involve the community in
shaping the responses called Forum theatre. In this form of drama, you
come as a group with a situation. You act it out and then you invite
members from the audience to come and act how they would do things
differently or solve the problem presented in the short drama. As many
people as possible from the audience can come to show their views and as
the group facilitating this you can drive things to the desired
In many communities, there are people who have gone to school to learn
how to do drama so again you can work with these people to help you make
your dramas as good as possible. This way you can develop relationships
with many people in your community and maybe they can also join your TAC
CREATE A LIBRARY FOR YOUR BRANCH
In your branch, you can have a person specifically responsible for
education activities. This person must start a library of reference
materials on topics on or related to HIV/AIDS. You can start by keeping
two sets of all the materials TAC, the AIDS Law Project, Department of
Health, Soul City or other organisation has produced and a register of
who takes what out when. The branch education officer can then make
sure that at every meeting one person reads something new and gives a
short input before or after the other agenda items of the meeting. Many
TAC branches have started what they call "UMRABULO" which is a series of
education discussions where old and new TAC activists come and educate
each other on key topics of HIV/AIDS and related things. This can be
once every week or fortnightly. We can invite experts from universities
or other organisations, as well as our parliamentary constituency office
or doctors and nurses to help us discuss a certain topic, e.g. social
grants that already exist such as the disability grant or child support
grant or grants that we are campaigning for such as the basic income
grant. But we can also find documents on the topics and give
responsibility to a branch member to read the document and explain to
the others. All members can take turns to do this and this will help
develop a culture of reading in our group. The topics we discuss do not
have to be on HIV alone or social grants alone. People can also take a
good novel like "Things fall apart" by Chinua Achebe, read it and
explain what is happening in the book and what lessons we can learn from
it for our community. Remember HIV is related to other things that
happen in our society and that the main function of a TAC branch is to
build a new society. We must therefore also discuss other things that
affect our community. But understanding treatment is our primary
responsibility and challenge now, so we must read as much as possible on
HIV and HIV treatment.
We can all learn about HIV treatments, science, legal concepts,
economics, etc and we have the opportunity now. By learning about these
things we can beat HIV together.
Government must lead us by signing the Nedlac Framework for a National
Treatment and Prevention Plan and by adopting a policy to use
antiretrovirals in the public sector. This will help guide all of us and
get rid of the confusion and uncertainty. This will help us as TAC
branches and communities to do the work we already do even better - and
We must prepare the ground for HIV treatment to work now by educating
ourselves and everyone else in our community about these treatments.
Then once it is started, it will be more successful.
For further assistance with doing treatment education in your community
you can call the Treatment Literacy co-ordinator at the following TAC
National office: 021 788 3507 (Sipho Mthathi)
Gauteng: 011 339 8421 (Johanna Ncala)
Kwa Zulu Natal: 031 304 3673 ( Bongiwe Mkhutyukelwa)
Eastern Cape: 043 760 0050 (Linda Mafu)
Western Cape: 021 364 5489 (Nomfundo Dubula or Vuyiseka Dubula)
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