2 February 2003

Dear all
 
In less than two weeks, on 14 February 2003, Cape Town will host the biggest mobilisation by TAC and our allies.  We are asking that the government signs and implements a national treatment plan. We need you to volunteer to distribute leaflets, put up posters, organise people to attend the march, help organise food, transport and many, many other tasks.  If government agrees to sign before, we will need you help rebuild the health-care system for all people in our country.

Everyone is welcome.

Here are some reasons why we need you and why you must help. 

Two years ago, on the 12 February 2001, in its annual demonstration at the opening of Parliament, more than 2000 TAC supporters marched to mobilise against the drug companies and to ask government to develop a national treatment plan.
 
Within two months TAC and its allies locally (Cosatu, Fedusa, the AIDS Consortium, the AIDS Law Project, the SACC and many others) and internationally (MSF, HealthGAP, CPT, ACTUP, Oxfam and many others) mobilised to defeat the drug companies. One of the most powerful industrial lobbies internationally was defeated by popular action.  Everyone hoped that the South African government would act immediately to save lives.  Instead, the government buried its head in the sand and forced TAC and our allies to battle with it in court to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. TAC mobilised all our allies, members and communties, we returned to court. Between 22 August 2001 when we luanched the Court case against the South African government and when we finally won in the Constitutional Court on 05 July 2002, a year later, nearly 70 000 children were needlessly infected with HIV. Since 18 April 2001, more than 200 000 people have died prematurely and unnecessarily from AIDS-related illnesses. 
 
Almost every single social sector, including government supporters in the AIDS field, has called on the government to sign and implement a national treatment and prevention plan.  We have the industrial capacity to make the medicines, we have the money to pay for it, we have sufficient workpower to train and retain health professionals to implement a treatment plan and according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation/HSRC study more than 90% of people surveyed wanted the government to provide anti-retrovirals as treatment in the public sector.  Tired of fighting unnecessary battles, TAC agreed to postpone our civil disobedience campaign when Deputy-President Jacob Zuma promised that government would sign and implement a treatment plan by end of February 2003.  Government missed a unique opportunity in December to heal all the rifts of the past by signing the NEDLAC agreement. It can still save the day by signing this agreement before 14 February 2003.  This will turn our march into a celebration to treat our people.
 
But, if government fails to sign the agreement, we ask every person to show government their desire, need, demand or support for a national treatment plan on 14 February 2003.  If government fails to sign and agree to implement a national treatment and prevention plan that includes the use of anti-retroviral therapy, TAC will be forced to embark on a national and international campaign of civil disobedience against our government. This year alone 250 000 people may die of AIDS-related illnesses. We have the power to prevent a holocaust in our country and on our continent.  
 
Below are the demands we addressed to President Mbeki and his government two years ago. Had they acted many lives could have been saved.
 
Extract from Memo to President Mbeki and Parliament 12 February 2001

THE ROAD FORWARD FOR HIV/AIDS TREATMENT IN SOUTH AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

The Minister of Health’s World AIDS Day speech calls for substantial reductions in drug prices as a minimum condition for the provision of anti-retrovirals on a sustainable basis. TAC and its allies in South Africa and globally have won a tremendous victory by forcing drug companies to lower prices.  Moreover, generic companies have indicated that they can provide combination anti-retroviral therapy at less than R400.00 per person per month. 

 

However, TAC believes that the government must encourage local generic production in partnership with Brazil, Thailand and India, as well as the local generic industry.  This is the only way to ensure sustainability of an HIV/AIDS treatment programme.  This requires courage and vision that only co-operation between the Ministry of Health, Finance and Trade and Industry can produce. The government must develop a financing plan together with a licencing plan to produce generic anti-retrovirals and to develop all health care infrastructure.

 

§        TAC calls on Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to accept the necessity and responsibility to implement a treatment plan based on generic anti-retrovirals. TAC calls on the MoH to develop such a plan before 16 June 2001.  In the interim, the MoH must ensure that every health care facility in the country implements the Standard Treatment Guidelines for the Treatment of Opportunistic infections and that the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission programmes are implemented at every ante-natal clinic across the country.

 

§        TAC calls on Minister Alec Erwin to use his powers in the Patents Act to licence all the necessary anti-retrovirals and diagnostics essential for an HIV/AIDS treatment plan.  Where necessary, Minister Erwin must issue compulsory licences against the drug companies for generic anti-retroviral production;

 

§        TAC calls on Minister Trevor Manuel to call a finance conference of the G8 countries and the international institutions to raise grants for the implementation of a treatment plan for HIV/AIDS, the eradication of TB, malaria and other neglected diseases in South Africa and throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America;

 

§        TAC calls on the South African cabinet and parliament to reduce military expenditure and apartheid debt repayments and to redirect this expenditure into the development of health care infrastructure and the creation of a basic income grant;

 

§        TAC calls on the Minister Nkosazana Zuma to introduce a motion in Parliament in solidarity with people with HIV/AIDS in Brazil and to support the government of Brazil against the US. TAC asks Parliament to request that the WTO Dispute Settlement Board drop the complaint against that country. 

 

Access to treatment is an issue of life and death for all Africa’s people. TAC calls on Tony Leon, the Democratic Alliance and all the opposition parties to support the government in the litigation instigated by the Pharmaceutical companies, as well as the policy outlined by the Minister of Health on World AIDS Day.
End of Extract -- TAC Addresses Below 
 
We hope that you will join TAC, Cosatu, Fedusa, the religious sector, AIDS Consortium and many civil society organisations on the March. Even better, we hope you are convinced to organise.
 
In solidarity
 
Zackie Achmat
 
TAC National Office:
Contact: Mandla Majola (072 424 7181) or Nathan Geffen (084 542 6322)
34 Main Road
MUIZENBERG
Cape Town 
info@tac.org.za
www.tac.org.za
Tel: 021 788 3507
Fax:021 788 3726
 
TAC Gauteng
Contact: Pholokgolo Ramothwala (082 969 8691) or Sharon Ekambaram (083 634 8924) 
3rd Floor Auckland House
185 Smit Street
BRAAMFONTEIN
Johannesburg
Tel: 011 403 2293
Fax: 011 403 1932
 
TAC Eastern Cape
Contact: Ivy Ntlangeni  or Hermann Reuther (082 4392985)
EAST LONDON
Tel: 043 722 1711
Fax:043 722 1712
 
TAC Kwa-Zulu Natal
Contact: Desmond Mpofu (083 492 0845) or Cati Vawda
Unit A, 3rd Floor
Doone House
379 Smith Street
DURBAN
 
TAC Western Cape
Contact: Thembeka Majali (082 362 5599)
Town 1 Properties
Sulani Drive
Site B
KHAYELITSHA
Cape Town
Tel (021) 364 5489
Fax (021) 364 9514