TAC Electronic Newsletter


9 June 2005

Yesterday, over 1,500 people participated in the MSF/TAC meeting at the 2nd South African AIDS Conference. It was followed by a march to hand over a memorandum to the head of the AIDS Conference, Professor Lynn Morris.

At the MSF/TAC meeting the following important documents were released (now available on the TAC website, www.tac.org.za):


Here is the memorandum that was handed over by the marchers:


Treat 200 000 Adults and children by 2006

Build a Better Public Health Care Service for All

End denial about the HIV/AIDS crisis


8 June 2005

Dear Professor Morris and delegates to the 2nd SA National AIDS Conference

The TAC welcomes the holding of the second SA national AIDS conference in Durban and the belated decision of the national Ministry of Health to participate in the conference. We regret that the high cost of conference registration makes it impossible for most poor people and communities of people who are directly affected by HIV to participate in its deliberations.

Nonetheless we recognise that this conference brings under one roof many of our best researchers, health care workers and public health officials and that it is an opportunity to reflect on what has been done to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic and what still needs to be done.

We salute the many doctors, nurses, government officials and others whose efforts are beginning to improve the lives of some people with HIV, particularly by extending access to antiretroviral treatment to communities.

The conference also takes place at a critical time in this epidemic: although the treatment plan has been in operation for 18 months, many more people are dying  than receiving treatment; tens of thousands of new HIV infections take place every year, including of babies as a result of mother-to-child transmission prevention. Basic medicine shortages continue.

We were angry and disappointed with the comments of Minister Manto Thabalala Msimang to this conference yesterday. We found them insulting to people with HIV.

In response to the Minister’s refusal to discuss specific numbers of people on antiretroviral therapy we say that is it specific numbers of people who are dying of AIDS, each one a person, each one adding to the numbers, and that is why we must count and measure our response to this epidemic. As Statistics South Africa has shown, by 2002 there were already 200,000 additional deaths per annum, mainly due to HIV. These are the numbers against which we should measure our progress – because each death is of a person who had human rights in the new SA, a person to whom the government had a duty. We offer our services to the department in monitoring progress with numbers.

In response to the Minister’s claim that she does not know what is going on with the plan we attach to this Memorandum a short report that we have compiled on the state of implementation of the Comprehensive plan. It shows that:


Scale up Antiretroviral Treatment now!


The experience of the plan so far confirms that antiretroviral treatment saves lives. TAC is calling this conference to support a national mobilisation to treat at least 200,000 adults and children by 2006. This target is necessary and possible.

It can be found in the original targets provided in the Cabinet approved Operational Plan. But achieving it needs political will, combined with mass treatment literacy education and support to our health care workers. Achieving it will turn the tide of this epidemic.

We also draw your attention to other important matters:

1. The national HIV prevention Plan (Strategic Plan) expires in 2005. As yet there is no plan and no evaluation of how to massively improve HIV prevention in this country. We cannot have “prevention, prevention, prevention” without a prevention Plan.

2. Three years after the Constitutional Court order to provide mother-to-child transmission prevention services there is little reliable information from the department of health about the extent of implementation. But many reports from people on the ground show that the programme is very weak. We still have a duty to save children’s lives and it is critical that this programme is made a priority and a success.

3. Nutritional support is not being provided to most people with HIV and others in need of it. We call for rapid steps to implement and monitor nutritional support. The right to nutrition is part of the right of access to health care services. In this respect we call on the conference to insist on a rapid scientific evaluation of some of the nutritional ‘products’ that claim to have a particular benefit to people with HIV, including ‘African Solutions’ that is being promoted by the Minister of Health. It must also be stated clearly by the Minister that none of these ‘solutions’ are an alternative to antiretrovirals.

4.Health care workers are bearing the brunt of care in this epidemic, but South Africa still does not have a human resource plan. We call for the urgent finalisation of the Plan and for a programme to recruit and train new health care workers, draw back health care workers who have resigned, improve conditions, amend scopes of nursing practice, and restore dignity to this profession.

In conclusion we wish to meet urgently with the Minister and provincial officials to discuss how treating at least 200,000 people by 2006 can be achieved and how this can be used to strengthen the health service for all people. Unfortunately however the Minister still refuses to engage with the TAC. We ask this conference to demand that such a meeting take place urgently in a spirit of co-operation and common purpose.

We request that this Memorandum be made available to delegates and read out at the start of the plenary on Friday June 10th 2005.


Yours sincerely


Linda Mafu (TAC National Organiser) and
Nkosinathi Mthetwa (TAC KZN Provincial Chairperson)

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