Messages of support for TAC’s 20th anniversary

In addition to the message received from the President Cyril Ramaphosa, TAC received the a number of encouraging and heartfelt written and video messages from various stakeholders, allies and friends. Here are some of the messages: 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Nelson Mandela travelled a long road with HIV/AIDS. From the day in the late 1980s when the former Rivonia trialists in Pollsmoor Prison first encountered HIV-positive comrades to the early 2000s when he pressed for liberatory policies and strategies; from a day informed by ignorance and fear to years in which he grappled determinedly with the issues and found himself on a collision course with the leadership of his own organisation.

The TAC has travelled a long road since its inception 20 years ago. It can be proud of its many achievements. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is proud of the TAC’s place in the history of struggles for justice in South Africa since 1998. We wish the organisation courage and wisdom as it moves forward.

The road is still long.

Viva TAC viva!

Adv Bongani Majola, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission; TAC’s counsel in TAC v Minister of Health, 2001-2

Regrettably, I will not be available but I am very pleased that you are commemorating 20 years of the Treatment Action Campaign.

I recall the ground breaking work that the TAC did during their 20 years of existence. It was because of the activism of the TAC that the then recalcitrant government of South Africa was forced to change its mind and adopt policies that the country is enjoying today regarding treatment of people living with HIV and Aids. Of course the government boasts that South Africa’s HIV programme is the largest in the world but this is thanks to the activism of the TAC.

Gwen Ramakgopa, Gauteng MEC for Health at time of TAC PMTCT case

It’s an Anniversary worth celebration with the profound solidarity and contributions to the HIV & AIDS Campaign. Health System Strengthening & HIV Free Generation are the next milestones to achieve .

Zak Yacoob, former judge of the Constitutional Court

The TAC must be congratulated for 20 years of hard work and organisation aimed at protecting and enhancing a most vulnerable group in society: people living with HIV and AIDS. In the process they have rightly advanced the move towards increasing equality according to values of the Constitution. May I suggest that the next step of the fight for vulnerable people living with HIV and AIDS is to decriminalise sex work completely.

Glenda Gray, President of the Medical Research Council, former director of Perinatal HIV Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital; joined TAC on TAC’s first demonstration outside Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, 21 March 1999

Congratulations on your anniversary. I am so sorry I cannot be with you today. TAC has remained critical since its inception. Your presence in today’s climate is as important as it was 2 decades ago, when you took up the lack of availability of antiretrovirals, both for treatment and for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Your courage ensured that people in South Africa could live with HIV as a chronic disease. Your efforts, literally breathed life into South Africans, as our life expectancy has increased since an all time low in 2004. Your efforts also ensured that paediatric HIV would become controllable, and we see our PMTCT rates realise this as interventions are made available to HIV infected pregnant women.

But today, we need you more than ever. Not only do we need you for HIV and TB treatment, we need you to help South Africa achieve Universal Health Coverage. We need TAC as much now as we did two decades ago as our health systems fail, and more and more people are deprived of dignified and quality health care.

I am proud of my association with TAC, and I am proud to see that you remain critically poised to respond to a health system that is jeopardizing access to care for HIV infected people, people with TB and people who need care despite their disease, ethnicity or wealth.

Aluta Continua

Prof. James McIntyre, Chief Executive Officer, Anova Health Institute; head of Perinatal HIV Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital; joined TAC’s first demonstration in Soweto, 21 March 1999.

TAC colleagues, Unfortunately I am travelling to the US and will not be able to join you. Congratulations on your 20 year celebrations. Without the advocacy and activism of TAC, South Africa would not have responded to the HIV epidemic. From our first demonstration outside Baragwanath Hospital – “No AZT, No vote” – TAC led the fight for drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and then onwards to treatment access. As scientists and service providers, all of us at Anova thank you all for your passionate defence of the rights of people living with HIV, your enduring commitment to securing quality care for all and your leadership across the health sector.
Wish you our very best wishes

Dr Colin Pfaff, doctor from Manguzi hospital victimized for providing ARVs

Unfortunately I am in Malawi, but I wish the celebration every success
Thank you for thinking of me

Dr. Eric Goemare, Regional HIV/TB technical support coordinator, MSF South Africa, doctor who came to SA to set up HIV clinic in Khayelitsha and later Lusikisiki

Thanks for such nice personal invite. Needless to say, would have jump in a plane not to miss such important landmark but will unfortunately be in Australia …
So my sincere apologies for missing this landmark event .

As you know, am working on my commitment to keep TAC comrades involved as much as possible into community HIV work. I attended recently the launch of HIV welcome back services launch in Khayelitsha , an answer to ‘treatment fatigue’, and very pleased to see TAC activists playing a key role in welcoming patient who had lost faith in our health services.

Helen Schneider, Professor School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, research adviser to TAC

Dear TAC friends, comrades,

A very warm congratulations on your 20th anniversary – what an incredible milestone! There have been countless stories, books and PhDs written on TAC and its many defining moments and savvy politics over the years. I am sure the celebrations will do justice to these, and I won’t repeat them here. In all of this, however, it is easy to forget just how deep was the despair and suffering in those early years, and how crucial the TAC was in shifting the mood of the nation and indeed the globe. For me and for many others who had the immense privilege of being able to witness the emergence and growth of TAC and now see its ongoing work, TAC will always remain in our hearts as a formidable force for dignity, hope and rights. I look forward to attending the 30th anniversary!

Viva TAC Viva!

Prof. Andrew Boulle, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT, adviser to TAC

Thank you Mark for this invitation. An event I would have loved to have supported, but regrettably I am out of the country on those days.

Rukia Cornelius, Regional Gender Lead for Southern Africa, Oxfam, TAC veteran

I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. There is much to celebrate and feel proud of. Thank you for extending an invitation, unfortunately I am unable to join. I am based in Cape Town and already have fixed commitments that week.

Wishing comrades in TAC all the best, always.

With Love and In Solidarity.

Deborah Santana, USA, patron with Carlos Santana of the Amandla AIDS fund

The power of hearing TAC’s advocates’ words changed me. as always, your efforts for human rights & healing are an inspiration to me.

Mlungisi Dlamini, Lifetime member of the Treatment Action Campaign

Please accept my apologies. I would have loved to be part of this milestone by the TAC but, due to some commitments it would be impossible for me to attend this event.
This is a milestone indeed. One I never thought will see in a lifetime. I remember sometime in 2003 after the launch of the Civil disobedience, we went to open a case of mass murder of our people by the then Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala Msimang and the Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin. The latter is not important in the story but the spirit of marching-on from the TAC comrades whom the majority were not looking very well physically/health wise. There was a possibility that we could be brutalised by the police or worse be thrown in Jail cells but, that was not to deter thousands of masses in red T-shirts written “Dying for treatment” at the back.
Dying for treatment! Is all you could see on those people’s faces, fear was the last thing in their minds. We were never arrested or beaten by the police but we were able to open a case…and I was to see a lot of faces for the last time that day.

That was the day of the Month that took comrades like Charlene Wilson, Kebareng Moeketsi and Edward Mabunda among many others who became the statistics of 600 people dying in South Africa daily.

Death was the order of the day back then but, we felt safe and alive inside the TAC. We have celebrated many achievements and at times thought we have won yet we find ourselves still talking health crisis. We have been fighting the different Demons yet dealing with the same Devil.

I may not be physically available to partake in some of the events TAC is home – then, now and forever!

Marcus Low, TAC activist, co-editor Spotlight, novellist

Dear Friends and Comrades

I wish you well with your celebrations. The many lives TAC saved is truly worth celebrating.
But we can only celebrate so much …

  • while our clinics are in crisis
  • while ambulances don’t come
  • while babies die for no reason

Comrades, while the Brian Hlongwas and Benny Malakoane’s of our country get rich … on the ground the people suffer.

Comrades. My hope is that TAC can emerge from this night vigil with a renewed sense of urgency and seriousness.

The work of rooting out corruption and fixing the public healthcare system is immense we must make it our life’s work.

Thank you

Pat Sidley, veteran journalist, reported on AIDS and TAC for Business Day, late 1990s/early 2000s

I am honoured at the request to join you in this commemoration and irritated at not being able to be there with you.

I must say though, that as a journalist, I was really only doing my job. But I shall let that guard down for an instant to share with you what that actually meant during that time.
It was far from an easy time, journalistically speaking. My coverage of HIV/AIDS was marked by the fear of such an immense topic which required, I assumed, such expert knowledge.

However I owe the former President a great debt of gratitude. Had it not been for his views and attitude, I might never have become so enraged and wild-eyed with anger as the implications of this became clear. It demanded the work I did, and demanded that it was done accurately.

As this all unfolded in various news situations in which I covered the topic (for the Mail & Guardian, Business Day, and the British Medical Journal) I encountered the best and worst of colleagues in the industry – and a few appalling moments of weak editing when the editor in question felt compelled to carry out the then President’s wishes and try and get me to “tone down” my work and to write what he thought was more appropriate. His office saw to it that even the British Medical Journal was contacted in London to get me to change my wording. He did not like my descriptions and I settled eventually on describing him as “eccentric”.

The BMJ, under fire at the time from a quite restrictive media atmosphere, had trouble believing each story that went out. But they did run the lot. One editor, locally, to his credit, told the President’s office he would not be co-operating with their requests. But that was matched by the editor who wanted to be loved by the President and pressure was placed on me to change the way I reported. I did not. The coverage divided newsrooms as well. I was not always backed up by colleagues.

My judgement was not always perfect – like being asked to let somebody off the hook who was being hounded in a witch hunt as the President tried to track a source for a story I had done on AIDS mortality rates. I acquiesced – and found several other people wanting the same letter I had written so that they were not the object of the witch hunt – which I found I could not do as that would have compromised the real source. I should have stood apart from all who asked. Or given all who asked for the same letter.
But throughout that time, I became aware of, and at times closer to, an extraordinary group of people many of whom will be here at this gathering, and wonderful organisations doing extraordinary work.

And more importantly I began to realize more than anything else had made me realize, the impact of the media. It was at times dreadful to think that having worked through much of the apartheid years, nothing had had the same impact on me, as the craziness of the Mbeki years and the need to get real information out.

I met some extraordinarily daft people too, like the journalist who has claimed she was responsible for Mbeki’s views. She called to damn my work with feint praise and then berate me for having done such an appalling job.

And I met good people in strange places – like the pharmaceutical industry.
You all have my undying admiration for the remarkable jobs you did and for allowing me to skim the surface of it as journalists are wont to do.

Thank you all.

Louisa Hobson, TAC Veteran and mother of Charlene Wilson

Good afternoon Mark! I did receive the invite and I actually don’t know how to answer you. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. My car is not roadworthy enough to take a trip to JHB and honestly speaking I don’t have money. This has been a very challenging year for us between losing children and an extremely poor economy. Please pardon me. My thoughts and spirit is with TAC always and I am extremely thankful for what you all did for our beloved Charlene and many other South Africans.

God bless you all.

Mthuthuzeli Isaac Skosana, Former GP chairperson and veteran

Chairperson, NEC as a whole fellow comrade,

Kindly accept my sincere apology. I would have loved to be part of this historical event of the movement. Sadly the date coincides with my daughter’s wedding day. Which I am bound to hand my daughter to her in laws. I feel sad for both events are so important in my life, sadly I can’t be in two places at the same time.

TAC is my home and will always be. For each step I take and breath I take. I am who I am because of TAC.

Please forgive me I hope my apology Will be accepted on behalf of me and my family as well my late mother.

Viva TAC!

Salomé Meyer, Project manager: Access to Medicine campaign

In the 20 years TAC have paved the way for equitable access to HIV and TB care in SA and now are taking the lead with other health issues. You have paved the way for showing us how to do advocacy and activism in a responsible manner – we applaud your leadership and successes of the past. We hope that we will ALL be united in our quest for true Universal Access to Health that is affordable and sustainable!

Best wishes for the celebration and we look forward to work with you on affordable cancer medicines in 2019!

Mooi loop!

Adri Ludick, Programme Development Manager, CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA

Well done on excellent work that has been done through the years. We are proud to be associated with TAC.

Linda Greef, Cancer Alliance

What a proud history your organisation has. I thank you for what we have learned from you and your team about advocacy and how it has informed is and is still informing our advocacy re access to cancer services in South Africa we value your leadership and skills thank you for being willing to partner with the Cancer Alliance

René Minnies , Programme Manager: Fountain House, SA 

We are very proud to have been part of the many advocacy campaigns with TAC and MSF over the past few years and want to commend you on the strides you have achieved to ensure access to healthcare in this country.We salute you, will continue to support the advocacy campaigns to ensure that all people of this country have the rehabilitation and treatment that is their Constitutional right!


Thank you for inviting BUSA to be part of the historic event. The regret is all mine that I will not personally be able to join you.

I wish to acknowledge the role that the TAC has played over the past 20 years in agitating in the public sphere, in the courts, with business and with government for people with HIV and TB. The work that has been done in raising awareness, reducing stigma, ensuring access to treatment, and most importantly in restoring dignity is commendable and embedded in our democracy.

Through the recent convening of the Presidential Health Summit, I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand some of the current TAC actions in getting to the grassroots and unblocking real and ongoing constraints. This is done with a deep sense of compassion, dedication and determination – recognising our humanity.

As Business we acknowledge the important role played by the TAC, and encourage you to keep on challenging us, be it as sectors that have role to play in prevention, treatment and care, or as employers.

Kerry Cullinan, Managing Editor Health-e News Service and journalist who reported on the TAC since 1999.

Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of the Treatment Action Campaign
On behalf of Health-e News Service, I would like to congratulate the TAC leadership, past and present, and all your members, for reaching this milestone.

For 19 of your 20 years, Health-e News has been reporting on your struggles and victories. We will always remember your courage in taking on all those who failed all the people living with HIV – from former president Thabo Mbeki and his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to quacks like Matthias Rath, Tine van der Maas and Zeblon Gwala.

Our nation owes all of you a huge debt of gratitude for fighting as hard as you did to defeat the beetroot brigade and ensure that all those living with HIV, not just the wealthy, now have access to antiretroviral medicine.
Over 330,000 people died unnecessarily during this fight and we will never forget them. May their spirit and sacrifice give us all the strength to ensure that all those living in South Africa have access to high quality health. With love and respect.