TAC Responds to American Friends Service Committee Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

2 December 2003

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has nominated the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and its chairperson Zackie Achmat for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. The  AFSC is a Quaker organisation which won the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize with the British Friends Service Council on behalf of all Quakers. It therefore can make nominations for the prize.

The TAC and Zackie Achmat are deeply honoured by this nomination. We have enormous respect and admiration for the work of the Quakers worldwide. The TAC is built on the principle that every person has the rights to life, dignity, equality and health care. We emphasise that our most difficult work is ahead of us. Also, the gains we have made over the last five years would not have been possible without the assistance of numerous activists worldwide, including Medecins Sans Frontieres (the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize winners), the Health GAP organisations, the Consumer Project on Technology, the organisations comprising the Pan African Treatment Access Movement, the trade union movement and faith-based organisations in South Africa, our funders and the hundreds of health-care workers and scientists who have embraced the campaign. The TAC as a movement will ultimately be judged by the implementation of successful treatment and prevention plans in South Africa and other developing countries. The AFSC nomination will certainly inspire us to work harder.

TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat, who is gay and lives openly with HIV, has responded to the nomination by saying, "I am deeply honoured. The gains made by the TAC have been due to the efforts of thousands of people. It is the organisation as a whole that must be commended for the achievements thus far."

Below is the AFSC announcement:


Cites vision and leadership against global crisis

December 1 2003

Philadelphia-- The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) a Quaker humanitarian service organization, has nominated South African Adurrazack (Zackie) Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize based on their work fighting HIV/AIDS. AFSC, which received the Nobel Peace Prize along with the British Friends Service Council in 1947 for humanitarian service during and after two world wars, makes its 2004 nomination in the belief that the global AIDS epidemic constitutes a grave threat to peace and security, a threat now recognized by the global community.

"The impact of AIDS in Africa is no less destructive than that of warfare itself," said United National General Secretary Kofi Annan in a speech to the Security Council in 2000. He continued, "By overwhelming the continent's health and social services, by creating millions of orphans, and by decimating health workers and teachers, AIDS is causing social and economic crises, which in turn threaten political stability.... In already unstable societies, this cocktail of disasters is a sure recipe for more conflict. And conflict, in turn, provides fertile ground for further infections."

Led by Zackie Achmat, its 40-year old founder and chair, TAC is a nonviolent, grassroots organization that works to raise public awareness and understanding of the issues that surround the availability, affordability, and use of HIV treatments. TAC has been described as the most vocal and visible lobby in a developing country for the rights of HIV-positive people to treatment and non-discrimination. Through mass mobilization, civil disobedience, legal action, extraordinary personal sacrifice, and visionary leadership, Zackie Achmat and TAC have helped to galvanize a global movement to provide hope and gain access to treatment for those with HIV/AIDS.

Zackie Achmat was born in Johannesburg and raised in a Muslim community in Cape Town. Because of his activism in the anti-apartheid struggle which led to him being jailed five times by age 18, Zackie never completed high school. He founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality, an organization that brought several landmark cases to the Constitutional Court. He was director of the AIDS Law Project before he founded the Treatment Action Campaign in 1998. Although he is HIV positive, Zackie refused to take certain treatment drugs until they were accessible to all South Africans.

The AFSC nomination letter states, "When treatment is available, there is a greater incentive for people to discover their HIV status through voluntary testing. Once people know their status, they are more likely to avoid risky behavior and to seek treatment when needed. And, perhaps most important, treatment provides hope, the most powerful antidote to the HIV/AIDS-related stigma."

The efforts of Zackie and TAC have led to dramatic reductions in the price of anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and other essential drugs through voluntary price cuts by pharmaceutical manufacturers and the acceptance of generics. AVRs that cost $10,000 - 15,000 in 2000 are now available for $132 per person per year. In addition to convincing drug companies to lower their prices, TAC has contributed to an overhaul of global trading rules to give precedence to the protection of public health over the protection of intellectual property rights.

AFSC's nomination cites the work of Zackie Achmat and TAC in helping create public awareness that treatment for HIV/AIDS exists: "Before they began their efforts, most South Africans did not know that there was such treatment, believing that infection meant certain death. Zackie Achmat and TAC insist that all people have a right to essential medicine and that a situation in which such drugs are beyond the reach of millions of poor people is simply unacceptable."

The letter also speaks to issues of justice and power: "Existing inequality, injustice, and imbalances of power are important determinants in the spread of HIV/AIDS. While no one is immune, those who live on society's margins and suffer discrimination in basic rights including health care are among the most vulnerable to infection. Because of the pervasive stigma surrounding the disease, those who are infected and those associated with them often suffer further discrimination and marginalization." The AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Committee believes the nonviolent campaign by Zackie Achmat and TAC has in a relatively short time made a significant contribution in the global struggle against AIDS and for peace and security and that it is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize. Given the continuing urgency of confronting the AIDS epidemic and its impact, and the necessity for governments and nongovernmental organizations to provide promised funding for AIDS treatment and education, AFSC believes that this nomination is particularly appropriate, timely, and compelling.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Jenny Shields Director, Media and Public Relations American Friends Service Committee 1501 Cherry Street Philadelphia, PA 19106 Phone: 215.241.7060 Fax: 215.241.7275 E-mail: jshields@afsc.org