TAC turns 14 years old – In memory of former chief justice Arthur Chalskason

Today the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)  turns 14 years old. Since we were born on the steps of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on International Human Rights Day 1998, it seems like the world has changed. This year’s birthday comes as a time where many celebrate signs that we moving to the right direction due to expanded access to ARV’s. This does not mean the war against HIV and AIDS is over, as many of us tend to forget where we come from and that the road ahead needs more focus. We are disturbed that many global leaders – particularly of developed countries – have started to reverse their commitment to see this struggle through and get to the Zero new HIV infections, Zero deaths and Zero discrimination.

In the spirit of celebration of our 14 years of activism we note that:

Mother to child HIV transmission in South Africa has been reduced to from 30% in 2002 to 2.7%: this did not fall of the sky through the mercy of our leaders. It took sweat, struggle, confrontations and court battles to get this. This campaign allowed more recognition of sexual reproductive rights of women living with HIV. But despite this the right to have a healthy child is still taken away through forced sterilisations imposed on HIV positive women. We will continue to defend and advance this right bearing in mind the life and words of TAC General Secretary, Vuyiseka Dubula:

I have been on treatment since 2004 and I had a beautiful HIV negative daughter in 2006 who is turning six year a day after TAC’s birthday! She will be starting grade one in 2013.This is something myself and many women could not even imagine before the famous constitutional judgment delivered by the late former chief justice Arthur Chalskason.”

Access to ARV’s has expanded from zero people in the public sector up until 2003 to 1.7 million in 2012. This came about as well through sacrifices of many TAC comrades who fought tirelessly, went to prison for civil disobedience and died in calling for a National Treatment Plan. Today South Africa has the largest ARV programme in the world. But this achievement has its own challenges. Today we are faced with treatment interruptions where many people in the poor provinces, such as the Eastern Cape, are given 3 days- two weeks of treatment. This highlights public health sector’s challenges in managing supply chain management amongst its many other challenges.

The cost of ARVs has dropped from R4500 a month in 1998 to less than R200 for 1st line drugs. However there are still many challenges as the cost of other essential drugs are still persistently too expensive; for example multidrug resistant TB drugs, cancer medications and 2nd and 3rd line ARV drugs are not affordable to poor people.

There are still many challenges that we all need to address to get the three zero’s and that includes strengthening the health system to respond to the need of the majority of South Africans. This means the inequalities in health must be eradicated by implementing the Government’s 10 point plan to improve the health outcomes of all South Africans.

For TAC in the next few years our challenge is to make sure that the ARV programme provides an improved quality of HIV and TB care for all people living with HIV. This can be done by pushing for more integration of TB in HIV programmes, integration of HIV in women’s reproductive health and of mental health care in HIV. This includes us mobilising others to join forces to ensure equal access to affordable medicines, diagnostics and vaccines. Also we need to make sure that everyone who is eligible for treatment has access, while retaining those on treatment in care through improving adherence support.

Affordable medicines can only be available where there is no monopoly of the market! TAC says South Africa must amend its patent laws in the interest of public health. We have seen how the ARV tender has managed to negotiate the best prices and that needs to apply to TB medicines, cervical cancer vaccines and cancer treatments.

TAC would like to thanks the thousands of its members and supporters who continue to dedicate their time, skills and energy to help us achieve all that we have achieved. We also want to remind all of us that the struggle continues.

Support TAC by donating, volunteering or supporting us:

Bank details:

Bank: Nedbank, Cape Town,

Account Holder: Treatment Action Campaign,

AccountNumber: 100 972 6269,

Branch code: 100 909

Office details to enquire about volunteering: 021 422 1700 or email: manti@tac.org.za

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