TAC Electronic Newsletter

19 April 2005

Contents

TAC statement on Patricia De Lille/Charlene Smith court case

Community story: On the march for health delivery in Wallacedene informal settlement

 

Defend the right to privacy

Justice for three women with HIV/AIDS

The Treatment Action Campaign wishes to express its disappointment with Independent Democrat (ID) leader Patricia De Lille and journalist Charlene Smith in relation to their conduct that is the subject of a trial that is now taking place in the Johannesburg High Court.

De Lille and Smith are being sued by three women with HIV for a violation of their rights to privacy and dignity. This is as a result of their names and HIV status being published in a biography about De Lille, published in 2002, and written by Smith.

>From the court proceedings so far the uncontested evidence shows that the three women did not consent, and were never asked to consent, to their names being published in the biography. It is also obvious that they have suffered fear, abuse and humiliation as a result.

Sadly, Smith and de Lille have not bothered to be in court to listen and show any respect for the three women’s testimonies, which have been a painful reminder of the stigma and suffering still endured by millions of people with HIV – but in particular poor women.

De Lille has a proud record of standing up for the rights of people with HIV. TAC believes she understands the impact of stigma, particularly on poverty stricken and vulnerable women. Therefore it is hard to understand why, instead of disputing the women’s testimonies and their rights to privacy, she did not issue an apology and delete references to the women from the book – as requested three years ago at the time of publication. Smith is is a journalist who has reported and commented extensively on HIV and the rights of women. She also should know better.

However, from their legal papers and argument in court it seems as if De Lille and Smith now dispute the right to privacy as well as the terrible vulnerability of women with HIV to violence that undermines the ability to disclose to male partners. If this is indeed what they are suggesting this runs contrary to what De Lille and Smith have stood for in the past.

TAC promotes openness and disclosure about HIV infection. But we recognize that for tens of thousands of poor people this remains difficult, if not impossible, because of stigma and women’s socio-economic dependence on men. Therefore the right to privacy is a vital protection of the right to dignity.

We call on De Lille and Smith publicly to accept that they acted wrongly and have harmed the women. It would be far better to restate, if necessary hand in hand with the women, their belief in the right to privacy and the need to urgently campaign for women’s security and dignity, than to defend a legal challenge in a way that undermines fundamental human rights.

Note: The case is currently running in the Johannesburg High Court. The AIDS Law Project is acting as attorneys for the three women who have completed their testimonies and cross examination before the court. De Lille and Smith are expected to testify on Thursday April 21. The names and identities of the three women are protected by an order of court made at the start of the trial which prohibits their identification or publication in any manner.

Contact: Nokhwezi Hoboyi - 021 788 3507

[ENDS OF PRIVACY STATEMENT]

 

Community Story: On the march for health delivery in Wallacedene informal settlement

In most newsletters, we will now publish a story told by a TAC member. These stories will cover a variety of topics, but we hope that readers will find them informative and interesting. The stories are researched and written entirely by the authors, some of whom are on a TAC educational programme teaching journalism skills. The sole contribution of the TAC News Service to these articles is to edit for length, spelling and grammar, or to occasionally make stylistic recommendations to the authors.

By Vuyokazi Majali

Wallacedene next to Kraaifontein in the Western Cape is an informal settlement that accommodates blacks and coloureds. The municipality does not deliver services, and there are many dumping areas and unhygienic conditions. The settlement has a high rate of poverty, crime and unemployment – and a high rate of HIV/AIDS.

Our health facilities are not sufficient. There’s only one clinic for the whole community of Wallacedene and too many patients needing that clinic every day. There’s also only one Community Health Centre for the whole of Kraaifontein. The Centre has only one sister with a few other staff members. You have to make an appointment one month in advance to see a doctor even if you are deathly ill.

We as the TAC Wallacedene branch members heard the complaints from the community. We tried to arrange meetings with the sister in charge of the Community Health Centre but she refused to talk to us, and so we held a mini-march against her. She is a white nurse who still treats black people badly.

Our demands were:

* access to information for all

* access to antiretrovirals for all who need them

* no more appointment system - first come first served

* no racism

The march was on 8 October, 2004. At first people came in small numbers but we ended up having a big crowd because Wallacedene people share our vision. It was a very big and successful march, raising awareness in the community about the need for better health delivery.

So far there has been one big improvement: the opening of an antiretroviral treatment site which is up and running. We hope to see more improvements and we won’t rest until we see them!

[END OF WALLACDENE STORY]

[END OF NEWSLETTER]