TAC Electronic Newsletter

27 October 2005


Lusikisiki celebrates comprehensive HIV care on 28 October 2005. Over 1100 people on antiretroviral treatment!

Program for Celebration of Comprehensive HIV Care in Lusikisiki

Friday 28th of October

Program Director : Ms Mofokeng, District HIV Program Manager

Ushering by S.E.H. support group

09h00-09h15 Drama Mantlaneni Clinic
09h15-09h20 Opening prayer by Reverend Gabula
09h20-09h30 Dance by Xurana Clinic
09h30-09h40 Welcome by Dr. Thomas, S.E.H. Superintendent
09h40-09h45 Choir by Malangeni Clinic
09h45-09h55 Introduction of the day Ms Ngobe, Professional nurse of the S.E.H HIV Unit
09h55-10h05 ARV User speech from Palmerton Clinic
10h05-10h15 Dance by Mpoza Clinic
10h15-10h25 ARV User Speech from Village Clinic
10h25-10h30 Choir S.E.H.
10h30-10h40 ARV User Speech from Gateway Clinic
10h40-10h45 Amandla Ngawethu CD Launch TAC Choir
10h45-11h05 Speech and distribution of patients awards: Sipho Mthathi, TAC General-Secretary
11h05-11h10 Choir Goso-Forest Clinic
11h10-11h15 Importance of adherence committees by Ms N. Kala, Village clinic professional nurse
11h15-11h25 Dance by Good Hope clinic
11h25-10h35 ARV User speech from S.E.H.
11h35-11h50 Speech and distribution of Performance certificate for specially committed staff by Nomalanga Makwedini, HIV/AIDS Directorate EC Province
11h50-11h55 Choir Bodweni Clinic
11h55-12h05 Speech by John Samuel, CEO of  Nelson Mandela Foundation
12h05-12h15 Dance by Magwa Clinic
12h15-12h25 Guest Speaker from National Department of Health
12h25-12h30 Choir by Quakeni Clinic
12h30-12h40 Votes and thanks Ms Jara, S.E.H CEO
12h40-12h50 Closure by Dr. Herman Reuter, MSF Project Coordinator

For TAC Comment: Sipho Mthathi, TAC General-Secretary (084 300 7007)

U.N. Envoy Sharply Criticizes South Africa's AIDS Program



JOHANNESBURG, Oct. 24 - A new book by the United Nations' special envoy to Africa on AIDS brings to light an extraordinary breach between the organization and South Africa over the crisis, under which the government has effectively banned the envoy from carrying out his duties here for the past year.

The book, written by Stephen Lewis, singles out South Africa's government and its president, Thabo Mbeki, for what it calls bewildering policies and a lackadaisical approach to treatment of the nation's millions of H.I.V.-positive citizens.

Virtually every other nation in eastern and southern Africa "is working harder at treatment than is South Africa with relatively fewer resources, and in most cases nowhere near the infrastructure or human capacity of South Africa," Mr. Lewis says in the book, "Race Against Time" (House of Anansi Press).

Mr. Lewis, a Canadian who has served since 2001 as the special envoy to Africa on AIDS for the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, wrote that "every senior U.N. official, engaged directly or indirectly in the struggle against AIDS, to whom I have spoken about South Africa, is completely bewildered by the policies of President Mbeki."

He contended that his colleagues are "incredulous" at how Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has exaggerated the possible side effects of antiretroviral drugs and wrongly suggested that a diet of sweet potatoes and garlic can be as important as antiretrovirals in treating AIDS.

Such public criticism is highly unusual for an official of Mr. Lewis's rank. His criticism largely mirrors that of civic groups and advocates for AIDS patients here. Those groups have long lambasted Mr. Mbeki and his health minister for what they call the government's halfhearted efforts to tackle the crisis head on.

In response, a spokesman for South Africa's Health Ministry called Mr. Lewis a biased and uninformed judge of South Africa's response to the epidemic. "No other country has increased treatment at the pace at which we are implementing our program," the spokesman, Sibani Mngadi, said in a telephone interview. "Soon we are going to have the highest number of people on treatment of anywhere" in the world.

Mr. Lewis's rift with the South African government dates from a July 2004 international AIDS conference during which Ms. Tshabalala-Msimang publicly questioned the safety of a widely accepted drug treatment used to lower the risk of transmission of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, during pregnancy. Several international officials objected to her comments, including Mr. Lewis, who lamented South Africa's lack of progress in offering antiretroviral therapy to hundreds of thousands in need of treatment.

Ms. Tshabalala-Msimang then publicly invited Mr. Lewis to visit South Africa "and realize how little he knows about the South African health system." But when he tried to take her up on the offer, Mr. Lewis said in a written response to questions, the minister fired back a missive "bristling with (untenable) accusations, and said I could not come to South Africa until I had apologized to many individuals and groups, the president and herself included."

After consulting with his superiors at the United Nations, he said, he wrote back to the minister, telling her he had nothing to apologize for.

Mr. Mngadi, the minister's spokesman, acknowledged in a telephone interview that Ms. Tshabalala-Msimang had demanded an apology. "The whole approach of Stephen Lewis was to question whether we as a government had a right to take particular approaches, and in that situation it really requires an apology," he said. South African officials have worked constructively with other United Nations representatives on AIDS, he said, "and never experienced the kind of fallout that we have with Mr. Lewis."

Mr. Lewis's book is a compilation of lectures he delivered as a private citizen during the past year. In his last chapter, he commends South Africa for devoting an ample share of its budget to AIDS problems and for its efforts to prevent new infections. "But on treatment, it is lagging unconscionably," Mr. Lewis wrote. "What troubles me, and troubles me deeply, is that the United Nations knows that something is terribly wrong, and yet we feel we cannot say anything about it."

About 6.3 million of South Africa's 47 million citizens are infected with the AIDS virus, up from an estimated 5.3 million in 2003. The World Health Organization estimated that about 837,000 South Africans urgently needed antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2004. Only about 78,000 of them now receive drugs through the government's programs, which began last year after a fusillade of criticism over delays. Health analysts say that perhaps 60,000 more South Africans are treated through private programs.

That leaves South Africa far behind countries like Botswana and Uganda, which by the end of last year were already reaching at least half of those in need. The World Health Organization's goal is to have 375,000 South Africans in treatment by the end of this year.

President Mbeki's decision in late 2003 to triple the AIDS budget and his government's efforts over two years to roll out free antiretroviral drugs has somewhat lowered the level of frustration. But many groups condemn his continuing silence on the epidemic and say Ms. Tshabalala-Msimang continues to sow confusion about the safety and effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy, the only proven defense against AIDS.

"There are continually mixed messages, and there is almost increasing confusion in the mind of the average Joe," said Rob Stewart, a health researcher helping the Health Ministry monitor treatment programs.

The latest controversy erupted Wednesday with disclosures that two self-proclaimed specialists were invited to argue to the National Health Council that antiretroviral drugs are toxic and ineffective.

Mark Sonderup, a spokesman for the South African Medical Association, said that his organization was "flabbergasted" by the presentation, and that government officials were trying "to torpedo their own programs." His organization represents three-fourths of the nation's doctors.

The ministry spokesman, Mr. Mngadi, insisted that the ministry was fully behind antiretroviral treatment. "If we were denialists," he asked, "why would we invest so much money in treatment?"


Important statements in the last few weeks on HIV in South Africa relating to Matthias Rath and Government's failure to act against him

Public Statement by Wits University


Issued by Prof. Loyiso Nongxa, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

The University of the Witwatersrand has noted with concern recent media reports and statements from organizations like Medecins sans Frontieres, about the activities of the Dr Rath Health Foundation (DHRF) in South Africa.

Of particular concern are reports of “clinical trials” of micronutrients among people living with HIV/AIDS in Khayelitsha. The trials have not been approved by any Research Ethics Committee, nor have they been subjected to scientific scrutiny. The medications being used have not been approved for this use by the Medicines Control Council. Reportedly, people being “enrolled” on this trial are not given adequate and accurate information about the alternative medication and are thus not able to give informed consent. This is directly counter to the laws of this country and the Constitution which states that “Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right… not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.”) (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Act 108 of 1996. Chapter 2 S12 (2) (c) ).

While the University supports any ethical, scientifically valid research into alternative ways of managing HIV/AIDS, we condemn the irresponsible and indeed potentially life-threatening activities of the DHRF. We call on the Department of Health and the Medicines Control Council to take immediate action to investigate the reports of scientific misconduct pertaining to DHRF and to ensure that vulnerable people are not exploited in the name of research.

Enquiries: Dr Wendy Orr, Director of the Office for Transformation and Employment Equity at Wits University, (011) 7171461 orrw@hr.wits.ac.za.

Statement by Rural Doctors Association of South Africa

30 September 2005

The Rural doctors of Souther Africa (RuDASA) supports the stance Zwelinzima Vavi took on ARV roll-out at the TAC congress. We join COSATU and the TAC in calling on government to do everything possible to increase the pace of roll out of the ARV programme and to ensure effective prevention programmes. It is clear from the statistics that many more people in the urban provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape are accessing antiretrovirals compared to the more rural provinces. Rural people have the same constitutional right of access to health care, and RuDASA would like to continue working with government and other organisations towards the goal of quality health care for all rural people.

Statement by AIDS Social Research Unit at University of Cape Town

6 October 2005

The AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town conducts research into the social impact of HIV/AIDS and the challenges and benefits of rolling out antiretroviral (ARV) therapy.  Our research shows that ARV therapy has the potential to help reduce new HIV infections and to improve the income and well-being of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The best research available shows that over 5 million South Africans are HIV-positive and that half a million of them are in urgent need of ARV treatment.  Yet, at most 150,000 people receive treatment in South Africa and only 60,000 to 80,000 in the public health sector.

We are pleased that government policy is in place to treat people with HIV. We commend the Western Cape government for the progress they have made in putting 11 000 people on ARV therapy in the public health sector. However, we are concerned about the lack of infrastructure and skills shortages that are constraining efforts to provide treatment for all who need it in South Africa. We call for an increase in national political will for an integrated health-care system that includes universal access to ARV treatment in all nine provinces.

We are concerned about the mixed messages about AIDS and ARV treatment coming from different parts of government and about the failure of the National Department of Health to act against people like Matthias Rath and Tine van der Maas who are causing confusion about the science and treatment of HIV. There have been several disturbing reports of deaths resulting directly from their activities as well as the disruption of good adherence practices. We call on both President Mbeki and the Minister of Health to put a stop to their activities before further damage is caused to the lives of people and the struggle against the HIV pandemic.

As the Minister points out, good nutrition is essential for people living with HIV. However, ARV therapy is also a crucial component of AIDS treatment. We call on the Minister of Health to acknowledge and emphasize the positive and life-changing benefits of ARV therapy. Good nutrition and ARV therapy are complementary interventions rather than alternatives.   
We call on President Mbeki and the Minister of Health, Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, to show greater leadership in efforts to alleviate the HIV epidemic. We call on the President and Minister of Health to acknowledge the devastating effects that HIV/AIDS is having on our communities and country and to place HIV/AIDS higher up on the national political agenda. We ask them, as leaders, to encourage people to seek voluntary counseling and testing and practice safer sex. We ask the President and Minister of Health to encourage people sick with AIDS to consider using ARV treatment, because these medicines have been shown by science to reduce illness and extend life.

Professor Nicoli Nattrass (Director of ASRU)
Signing on behalf of ASRU researchers


TAC's campaign to get government authorities to act against Matthias Rath

TAC is campaigning to get government authorities to carry out their constitutional and legislative duties and act against Matthias Rath, a pharmaceutical proprietor who is conducting the following illegal activities
On Monday 24 October, TAC held a demonstration outside the Site B Police Station in Khayelitsha. The reason for this demonstration was that the Health Professions Council of South Africa, acting on a complaint by TAC, lodged a complaint with the Site B police in March against Rath for acting as a doctor without being registered as one in South Africa. Detailed affidavits and evidence of Rath's activities was provided to the Site B police by both TAC and the HPCSA. No action has been taken.

Yesterday, 26 October, TAC members held a march through Mdantsane outside East London alerting the community to Rath's illegal and dangerous activities.

Today, 27 October, TAC will hold a demonstration outside the Western Cape Provincial Department of Health in Dorp Street, Cape Town from 11am to 2pm. We and others have been trying to get MEC for Health, Pierre Uys, to act against Rath since March this year. Besides issuing a statement which did not even mention Rath by name, MEC Uys has done nothing.

On 4 November, TAC will hold a demonstration outside the Medicines Control Council's offices in Gauteng. They too have failed to act against Rath, despite receiving a number of complaints from the public and a detailed affidavit in May from TAC describing Rath's activities.

TAC will in coming weeks announce details of court action against the Minister of Health, the Medicines Control Council, the Western Cape MEC for Health, Matthias Rath and his agents.


Siyayinqoba Beat It!

(This text is from Community Health Media Trust, the producers of Siyayinqoba Beat It! For enquiries about this excellent television series phone 021 788 9163.)

SABC1 – Sunday, 13h30
Repeat – SABC 1 Monday 08h00

Episode 3 – “Middle class denialism” – Sunday, 30th October 2005

Siyayinqoba Beat It – the programme for people living with HIV and AIDS, and our partners, families and friends. This week the Siyayinqoba support group discusses the difficulties that people from middle class backgrounds have in disclosing their HIV status, and what happens when people deny that they may be living with HIV.

Why is it difficult for so many people from middle class backgrounds to disclose and come to terms with living with HIV? Why are some people, who have much knowledge about HIV/AIDS and are committed to helping others, often themselves in denial?

In this week’s documentary, we reflect on the life of Ronald Louw, a university professor, human rights activist and a ‘father’ to many people living with HIV and AIDS. Through the tributes delivered after Ronald’s death in June 2005, we learn about the need for early testing and to encourage people from all backgrounds to be open about living with HIV. Close friends of Ronald and the Siyayinqoba support group share their experiences of delaying testing, stigma and the fear of rejection, and suggest ways to change this.

Take home messages are:


Zip-Zap Circus School in Khayelitsha on Saturday 29 October to campaign for acceptance of people with HIV

An initiative of Khayelitsha Youth Fighting HIV/AIDS with support from MSF and TAC

You are kindly in nvited to our youth activities on 29th October 2005.


VENUE:  MEW WAY HALL (meeting outside; doors will only open at 13h30)

For more information contact:
TAC Western Cape Office: 364 5489
Amelia Mfiki: 0734337191
Pumeza Runeyi: 0735357873