World AIDS Day is a very important day internationally. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and SECTION27 respect the dignity of the day and the decision of SANAC and the National Department of Health to use it to promote voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and relaunch HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT). But the day also requires that we speak honestly about the challenges that face the response to HIV in SA and internationally.
The day belongs to activists as much as it does to governments and UNAIDS who have taken over the day and today seem to resent those of us who still ask uncomfortable questions or seek to convey the anger of the poor, the criminalized and the dying.
Yesterday, the Treatment Action Campaign took part in official World AIDS Day celebrations all over South Africa. We however refused to enter the venue in Piet Retief unless we were guaranteed a meeting with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. We needed to meet the Deputy President to call on him to prioritise improving the realities of people living with HIV/AIDS (PWAs) through addressing the collapsing health system, food shortages and lack of healthcare professionals in the most disadvantaged areas and drugs stock-outs – particularly in Gert Sibande where antenatal HIV prevalence is nearly 50% in some sub districts.
TAC and SECTION27 also feel uncomfortable with the millions of rands spent on expensive World AIDS Day celebrations when one in five clinics nationwide have experienced a drug stock-out in the past three months.
We are happy that at the end of the event Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, the Premier of Mpumalanga, the MEC for Health in the province and the CEO of SANAC met with the provincial and national leadership of TAC. In a brief meeting they acknowledged the issues raised in a letter we submitted to the Deputy President on the 11th of November 2013.
In particular, TAC and SECTION27 welcomed the outcome of the meeting which was a commitment made by the Premier of Mpumalanga to convene a special AIDS Council meeting on Wednesday 4 December to discuss the challenges faced by PWAs in the Gert Sibande region. We will participate in this meeting and look forward to an outcome that improves the quality of health care services, HIV prevention and treatment across the Province.
A copy of the letter to the Deputy President has been attached.
For more details please contact:
Anele Yawa TAC 079 321 5826
Sifiso Nkala SECTION27/TAC 083 474 8449