24 April - From Venezuela to Jamaica to Finland to Ivory Coast to Tanzania, people across the world are expressing solidarity with South Africans with HIV/AIDS by urging the SA Government to save lives, by implementing an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention plan.

Here is just a small sample of the activities that have taken place or are being planned for the 24th of April:

In Nairobi, activists will hold a press conference to express solidarity with TAC's demands.

In Tokyo, 600 paper cranes, representing 600 people dying a day of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, were  handed over to the South African embassy.

In Amsterdam, 600 red tulips will be handed over to the South African embassy.

In Los Angelas, 600 pairs of shoes will be placed in front of the South African Consulate.

In London, 25 pairs of shoes an hour will be laid in front of South Africa House.

In Milan, 600 shoes will form part of a demo on the Piazza Duca D'Aosta.

At Harvard University on 16 April, nearly the entire audience attending a talk by Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, stood in support of antiretroviral therapy.

In Paris, demonstrators at the South African embassy in Paris will hold Wanted Posters for Ministers Erwin and Tshabalala-Msimang.

A petition collected at the Latin American AIDS Conference in Cuba will be faxed to all regional South African representatives.

Hundreds of letters from people living in countries as diverse as the US, Denmark, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Thailand and Nigeria have been sent to South African officials.

To express your support for an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention plan, fax, mail or email Deputy-President Jacob Zuma:
Private Bag X1000
CAPE TOWN
Fax: (021) 464 2271
E-mail: Deputypresident@po.gov.za

In South Africa, TAC will continue its civil disobedience campaign. Here is the memorandum that will be handed over at the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry today.

Memorandum to the Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, and Minister of Trade and Industry, Alec Erwin


24th April 2003


Today the Treatment Action Campaign has brought our civil disobedience campaign to the doors of those we hold most responsible for the failure of the South African government to manage the HIV/AIDS epidemic: the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry. Also today, civil society organisations around the world are joining in actions to express their dismay at the failure of South Africa's democratically elected government, for which many of them campaigned, to care for poor people who do not have access to life-saving medicines and who experience the full burden of a collapsing, neglected health-care system. Many activists on the African continent are also participating out of solidarity, but also because they realise that if South Africa makes progress in treating people with HIV/AIDS and in making medicines more accessible, it will benefit their country's responses to HIV/AIDS. Indeed, South Africa should be leading the continent in the struggle against this epidemic. Instead, our government's response is still characterised by denial, deceit and delays.

Since the Cabinet Statement of 17 April 2002, about 200,000 people have died of HIV/AIDS. This year, on average, 600 people will die of HIV/AIDS a day and over 1,500 new infections are occurring daily. Our graveyards are filling up with young people. The terrible crisis described by these statistics continues because of your failure to act. We condemn your plethora of confusing, unscientific statements that question the safety and efficacy of antiretroviral medicines and your misuse of the hunger of people to create a false dichotomy between nutrition and medicine.

For TAC volunteers, the above statistics are expressed in real loss. Some of us participating today are dying. Others are too ill to join and watch our actions from sick-beds in hospitals and at home. In the last three weeks, at least seven of our comrades have died. You should know the names of some of them, because you bear a large part of the responsibility for their deaths: Edward Mabunda, Charlene Wilson, Kebareng Moeketsi, Mxolifi Kohlakala, Mzokuhle Fanayi and two others whose families have not given us permission to release their names because of the stigma of HIV that is perpetuated in no small part by the confusion our government encourages.

Both of you are fully aware of the urgency of the crisis of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Yet, Minster Erwin has not responded to a memorandum we delivered to the Director-General of Trade and Industry in a meeting on 14 February 2001 in which we requested the DTI to begin requesting voluntary licenses on many essential medicines and to pursue compulsory licenses if these requests were not met. We welcome news of a plan to develop local capacity for the production of medicines for HIV, TB and malaria. But in the meantime you should use the capacity that already exists in the private generic sector and also import from Brazil, India and Thailand. Minister Tshabalala-Msimang has not responded to numerous memoranda. Neither of you responded to the memorandum handed over at Parliament by nearly 15,000 people on 14 February 2003.

If this crisis of political and moral leadership continues we will continue our civil disobedience campaign. Some of the actions we will take include:

Occupying the Health Professions Council SA and the SA Nursing Council. Both have failed to offer any leadership in this epidemic, and have often countenanced discrimination against patients with HIV. We will also ask them to strike Minister Tshabalala-Msimang and her adviser Dr Mhlongo from the doctor's role. We demand that MEC Manana be deregistered as a nurse.
Disrupting speeches of both ministers.
Organising international events that call on the South African government to save lives and revive its huge reputation for morality and dignity. In this regard, you are  aware that last week the Minister of Finance was greeted at Harvard University with protests and questions about government's failure to implement a treatment and prevention plan.
Initiating a new legal action to get government to implement its Constitutional duties.

We do not want to take these actions; they are not a pleasure for us. We want to work constructively with all levels of government to treat and prevention HIV and to build a better health-care system. Unfortunately, your failure to act, while thousands die unnecessarily, leaves us with no option but to continue civil disobedience so that you may feel a small fraction of the discomfort felt by the millions of poor who are sick and depend totally on the South African health-care system.

Once more, we call on you to meet your responsibilities by:

Returning to NEDLAC so that the NEDLAC Framework Agreement for an HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Plan can be signed.
Making an irreversible, unequivocal commitment to making antiretroviral therapy available in the public health sector.
Taking steps to obtain voluntary or compulsory licenses for the immediate importation and production of essential generic HIV/AIDS medicines.
Immediately signing the Global Fund agreements.

We repeat what we have made clear on numerous occasions in the past: whenever you do what is right, we will assist you and mobilize community campaigns for better health-care. We will intensify pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to end its profiteering and muster all our strength here and abroad to get the international community to make its fair contribution towards alleviating the epidemic. It is tragic that your negligence gives the pharmaceutical industry and the governments of rich countries an excuse to fail to meet their moral obligations. We urge you to lead by example, to do the right thing: Save lives and Implement an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention plan immediately.

Signed

(Different people in different provinces)

[ENDS]