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
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
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
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
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:
- Nationally only about 45,000 people are receiving antiretroviral
treatment in the public sector.
- In some of the worst HIV affected Provinces, especially Limpopo
and Mpumalanga, barely a thousand people are receiving treatment.
- The Operational Plan’s nutrition programme is not being rolled
out except at a few sites.
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
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
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
We request that this Memorandum be made available to delegates and read
out at the start of the plenary on Friday June 10th 2005.
Linda Mafu (TAC National Organiser) and
Nkosinathi Mthetwa (TAC KZN Provincial Chairperson)
[END OF NEWSLETTER]