TAC Uitenhage Branch Holds Vigil for Sick Comrade



17 July 2003

About fifteen members of the TAC Uitenhage branch held a night vigil which ended at 12pm today for one of their sick comrades. The aim of the vigil was to highlight the urgent need to make antiretroviral therapy available in the public health sector. The Uitenhage branch has written a statement which is reproduced below.

IF WE MUST DIE, WE WILL DIE FIGHTING!

Statement by the TAC Uitenhage Branch

TAC activists picket through the night to demand antiretroviral treatment for fellow comrade


We are picketing at this hospital through the night to demand that our comrade be given proper treatment. She's been ill and all indications show that she needs antiretrovirals. Ntombomzi was admitted yesterday after getting fits and being confused. A proper diagnosis has not yet been made, but doctors suspect Cryptococcal Meningitis. While a proper diagnosis will help for Ntombomzi to be given treatment for the particular illness she has at the moment, we know that without antiretrovirals to fight the HIV directly, our comrade will get other illnesses.

Ntombomzi Ranawe was one of the first people to start a support group and a TAC branch in Uitenhage. She lies at Uitenhage Provincial Hospital, which is a state hospital and where antiretroviral treatment is not available.  We are doing this because we want to show to government that people are dying. While the leaders of our country play with nice words to delay implementing this treatment programme, we on the ground are dying.

This cannot continue in silence. From now on, every death that could possibly have been prevented must be noted. Like the deaths of people in Sharpeville, like the deaths of those who died during the apartheid struggle, our deaths must be noted. It must be written down in history books as a human tragedy, a direct result of the failure of political will.

We stand here today with hope that our comrade will get well and come out of hospital. We hope that our government will speedily finalise a decision to start implementing a treatment programme with antiretroviral therapy as supported by the joint Health/Treasury task team study so that she and many others who need this treatment can get it.

We also hope that the Eastern Cape government will start to lead us in this province in addressing HIV/AIDS. Recent reports show that our hospitals in this province are dying in front of the government's eyes and that our AIDS programmes are not working.
There is a shortage of staff, medical equipment and medicines and people die unnecessarily. This cannot continue. We ask our Eastern Cape government, particularly health MEC Dr Goqwana,  to act on the recommendations of these reports and not to force us into Civil Disobedience. We also demand answers as to what the province's operation plan is for treating HIV/AIDS.

What we are doing here today will continue until our comrades get treatment. Next time we will pitch a tent here at the hospital and sit here a whole week. We refuse to die in silence while politicians delay decisions that could save lives and give hope. We will fight for our dignity and our rights!

[END OF STATEMENT AND ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER]