TAC Releases Details of Government Costing Study


14 July 2003


Leaking details of report is a moral obligation - not "mischief" and "theatrics"


Download the documents TAC released to the media  from http://www.tac.org.za/Documents/TreatmentPlan/slideshowongovernmentcostingstudy.pdf



Several weeks ago TAC Chairperson, Zackie Achmat obtained a copy of slides presented by Health Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba to the Health MinMEC, setting out the approach and findings of the Health/Treasury Task Team looking at the costs of antiretroviral treatment. The TAC NEC decided that this information was in the public interest and authorized the Chairperson to release it to church, trade union, business and civil society leaders with a request that they implore Cabinet to speed a decision to commence ARV programmes. This weekend the information was also given to the press by Achmat.

Since the Director-General  of Health made this presentation, and, the MinMEC forwarded this report to Cabinet and a further delay by another "committee" thousands of people have died unnecessary and premature deaths.

Today the TAC has been accused by the government of acting mischievously by making public parts of the "secret" report prepared for the Cabinet that looks into the costs and potential benefits of adding an antiretroviral programme to existing interventions to prevent and treat HIV infection. TAC has also been accused by Advocate Rams Ramashia, the labour director-general of breaching "state security" and "undermining and possibly de-railing the Nedlac process".


We reject these accusations. On a matter of such fundamental importance to millions of people's lives, the Constitutional right of access to information and the Constitutional duties that govern public administration are paramount. The notion that state security has been breached is ludicrous: in fact it is the personal security of millions affected and infected with HIV that is threatened by government procrastination.


TAC has acted morally and responsibly. Making parts of the report public comes during a long, painful and unnecessary period of unjustifiable delays by the Health Department and Cabinet.  In particular, we draw attention to the following:


·                    In November 2001, the Department of Health's National Health Summit made the recommendation that antiretroviral pilot projects should commence in the public sector.

·                    In April 2002, the Cabinet publicly recognised that antiretroviral drugs are effective.

·                    In August 2002 a 'Scientific Summit' convened by the Department of Health "unanimously" recommended introducing antiretroviral treatment.

·                    In October 2002, the Cabinet announced the formation of a task team to investigate costs and benefits of an ARV programme.

·                    During negotiations at NEDLAC on a national framework agreement for treatment and prevention, the Director-General of the Health Department indicated that the task team report would be complete by February 2003.  This is reflected in the text of the draft agreement.

·                    Because of the delay in the Cabinet's consideration of this report, the NEDLAC process has been derailed for 8 months.  To date, labour, community and business are still awaiting government's response to the proposals set out in the draft framework agreement.

·                    On 9 May 2003, the Health Minmec meeting accepted the report.  In an interview on 14th May 2003 on AM Live, the Minister of Health indicated that a Cabinet decision on the proposals would be taken during May.

·                    Between late April and July, the TAC suspended its civil disobedience campaign, partly upon the expectations that upon the report's completion by May, its progress through Cabinet would be expedited. The need to do this has been repeatedly raised in our interactions with government. However, to date, Cabinet has still not discussed the report.

·                   In April, government undertook to finalise the Global Fund Agreements and guaranteed the beginning of their implementation by the end of May. Yet this has not happened.

·                   On 14 June, a joint statement by SANAC and TAC was released by the Deputy-President Jacob Zuma with the agreement of the Health Minister.  the Minister in the office of the Presidency, Mr. Essop Pahad and the Minister of Arts, Science and Technology Dr. Ben Ngubane. This statement stressed the urgency of finalising the NEDLAC process and the costing report.
 

According to another official report (which has still to be released) ante-natal HIV prevalence in SA in 2002 reached 26,5%. HIV related deaths number over 600 a day. Our actions only publicly express the frustration and pain of people who die quietly at home and in our hospitals, in the face of a torrent of excuses and delays. Given the contents of the Health/ Treasury report, which indicate the possibility of saving tens of thousands of lives, and given the fact that the report is commissioned by the government itself, all of these delays are unconscionable and, in our view, run directly counter to the spirit and obligations of the South African Constitution.  

When the report was given to the TAC Chairperson, we kept it confidential until it became clear that Ministers Pahad and Tshabala-Msimang have "referred" it back to the drafters to answer questions on "infrastructure". This left us with no reasonable choice other than to make it public.  Despite this, we did not do so initially, hoping that the placing of the report before Cabinet would make this unnecessary.  This has not happened and this is the justification for our release of this document. 

"Theatrics" is a generous description of politicians who will ignore people's right to life until just before the 2004 elections.
 
The controversy around antiretrovirals exists because of government delays. Announcing and implementing a programme that starts to provide treatment to people in need is the surest and quickest way to end the controversy.

 
[ENDS]