30 September 2014 – The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) takes note of media reports today that we “face closure”. In response we have received many calls of support and concern. We would like to state that despite severe financial challenges, the TAC is not facing imminent closure. However if we have not raised the funding required by February 2015 we will have to make tough decisions.
The downscaling or closure of the TAC would be a major setback to our democracy and to South Africa’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. More than ever South Africa needs well-informed, membership-based organisations to empower communities and hold government and the private sector to account to the promise of the Constitution.
People ask why we face this challenge? One reason for the funding crisis is that despite approximately 400,000 new HIV infections every year in South Africa, 170 000 AIDS-related deaths, including an estimated 88 000 deaths per year of people living with HIV due to TB alone, – the HIV epidemic is dropping down the political agenda in South Africa and internationally. Several foreign donors are withdrawing funding for AIDS and no longer funding the TAC or other civil society organisations as they did in the past. Donors such as the United Kingdom’s Department For International Development (DFID), who have been a key funder of TAC, are pulling out of South Africa due to our middle-income status. A number of funders remain committed to the TAC and are steadfast in their support of our work. However, their contributions alone are not enough.
The Board of Directors and the National Council of TAC are concerned both about the future of the TAC and the future of South Africa’s AIDS response. The TAC has campaigned successfully for the last 16 years to save countless lives of people living with HIV and TB through our advocacy and human rights campaigns. We have won a number of important court victories and helped set the stage for the large-scale rollout of antiretroviral medicines in the public sector.
Since it was founded on Human Rights day in December 1998, the TAC has:
· Helped drive down the price of antiretroviral drugs to affordable levels;
· Won a Constitutional Court case that opened the door to a nationwide programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT is now occurs in less than 3% of pregnancies);
· Broken the resistance of official AIDS denialism and brokered the first serious national strategic plan on HIV and TB;
· Mobilised communities continually to promote take-up of antiretroviral treatment and monitored the roll-out, meticulously pointing out every problem, stock-out and shortage;
· Helped to set up organisations like the Joint Civil Society Monitoring Forum, the Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum; and now the Stop Stockouts Project;
· Campaigned to avert the collapse of provincial health systems in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga, continuing to create pressure to fix it.
But TAC’s mission is far from complete. The challenges facing AIDS are far from over. For example, it has become blatantly clear in recent months that parts of the healthcare system are collapsing in a number of provinces and much of our gains could be lost. A recent article in the New York Times stated that South Africa’s AIDS response is in peril. Unfortunately this is true.
In this context, TAC activists continue to do critical work to hold government and the private sector accountable and to alleviate the co-epidemics of HIV and TB in communities. Without the training, mobilisation and organisational infrastructure of the TAC, users of the healthcare system will find it challenging to demand better health services and to respond effectively to mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption in provincial healthcare systems.
But to do this we need to raise an operating budget of approximately R30-million for next year.
In the same breath we wish to provide the assurance that the TAC does not waste money or pay high salaries. This funding is used to directly support campaigns and programmes run through the TAC’s seven provincial offices and national office; to support our treatment literacy programme amongst our 8,000 members and those they reach; and to continually monitor, research and report on the response to HIV and TB.
But in the difficult funding climate so far we have managed to raise less than 30% of our budget for the 2015/2016 financial year.
The TAC assures its volunteers, staff, supporters and existing donors that we will not go down without a doing everything in our power to find the funds to sustain the TAC in 2015 and beyond. Our National Council and directors have been engaged in the past months meeting with UNAIDS and potential large donors. We are doing all we can to ensure we will continue our work.
On 1 November 2014 to World AIDS Day on 1 December, TAC will launch an innovative, bold and extensive global fundraising campaign. We will soon publicise our plans. We call for public support for this campaign!
Please go to www.tac.org.za/donate if you would like to make a contribution. Invest in the TAC and save lives!
There is not yet reason to panic but the situation is serious.
We promise to keep the media and public informed over the coming months.
Nosipho Kota, TAC Communications Co-coordinator, 074 476 38 57
Mark Heywood, TAC Board member, 0836348806