Seizing the moment for TB – TAC intervention

Speech delivered by TAC Chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala and TAC General Secretary Anele Yawa at #AIDS2018 at a session titled: “Seizing the moment for TB” on 27 July 2018.

Comrades, I come from the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa

I thank my comrade from India, Blessi Kumar for giving us an opportunity to have our voice heard at the TB session.

Comrades  – what is killing our people with HIV today – it is TB – so yes, we must seize the moment as this session says.

But far away from all of us, from community groups, in New York, a document is being negotiated that will affect how our governments “seize the moment” – could any of us have imagined that the objective of one of the countries would be to seize our medicines. 

You all have heard about the UN High Level Meeting on TB which is to take place in September 2018 and there will be a declaration signed by all countries. 

The HLM and the political declaration will form the basis of my government, your government, all our governments to commit political will and resources to fight TB.  

But language that will ensure access to affordable generic TB medicines, vaccines and diagnostics may not be in the Declaration now.

When our lives were in danger in the 1990s our President Nelson Mandela was sued by big pharma to stop generic medicines from reaching our people.

We came on the streets – the whole world came on the streets and at the World Trade Organisation all the countries including the United States signed the Doha Declaration – this Declaration recognises the right of our governments to take legal measures to ensure access to generic medicines.

That language has been in every HIV declaration in the past two decades.

That language is in the sustainable development goals. 

Why should it not be in the TB High Level Meeting declaration.

Why is the United States bullying our governments to take this language out? Ambassador Goosby  you were leading the US response on HIV for many years, why have you not spoken out on what the US is doing? As UN Ambassador we call on you to immediately support language in the declaration on using TRIPS flexibilities to ensure access to affordable TB medicines, vaccines and diagnostics.

Why is the EU silently supporting the US?

Why is the government of the Netherlands that is hosting us, that has pledged to put their power and political will behind HIV staying silent on this?

Do you not know what is killing people with HIV?

Or is your only concern that we will get on flights and bring TB to you?

That you do not really care whether we live or die?

Whether we get TB treatment or not?

My government, South Africa, has stood up and broken the silence. My government is demanding that language on access to affordable generic TB treatment is including in the HLM.

We call on all of you, all other governments, all our panelists to join us and our government in protecting our right to affordable TB medicines.

Viva South Africa Viva!



Do we not know who is behind all this?

Johnson and Johnson said in an interview yesterday that they have the same goals as all of us!

No my friend we do not!

Our goal is to save our lives and those of our comrades.

Your goal is to make money off of our suffering.

We know that bedaquiline can be available for less than a hundred dollars – so don’t expect us to be happy with the 400 USD price – don’t expect us not to fight for our comrades in other countries where you are charging even higher prices – up to 30,000 USD in some countries!

So if you think you can use the US government to keep the language ensuring access to generic medicines out of the declaration – my friend you cannot keep us – the community, the patients, the ones whose lives are at stake out of the declaration!

We will stop your patents from being granted.

We will have compulsory licenses issued on your medicines. 

Community property not intellectual property. 

People not patents. 

All the power, to the people!