The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in December 1998 to campaign for access to AIDS treatment. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most important civil society organisations active on AIDS in the developing world. One of its most significant victories was the 2002 Constitutional Court ruling in which the South African government was ordered to provide anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies during birth. In the years following the judgment the TAC’s campaigns were instrumental in securing a universal government-provided AIDS treatment programme, which has since become the world’s largest. In 2006 the New York Times called the TAC “the world’s most effective AIDS group,” while the founding director of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot, has written that “TAC was in my opinion the smartest activist group of all, worldwide.” In 2007, in large part owing to pressure from the TAC, the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and Tuberculosis 2007-2011 was adopted by Parliament.
Today the TAC continues to represent users of the public healthcare system in South Africa, and to campaign and litigate on critical issues related to the quality of and access to healthcare. The organisation currently has over 8,000 members and a network of 182 branches and provincial offices in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Members elect the leadership of the organisation, which ensures accountability and that the TAC’s policies reflect the realities on the ground. Members receive basic training in the science of HIV, TB and related conditions, and about their rights in the healthcare system. Through its branches and members the TAC monitors thousands of clinics and hospitals. Its members are the people who need the public health system to work, so they are the first to notice when it doesn’t. In addition to the large national campaigns, the local activism of the TAC’s members is the true life-blood of the organisation. By organising locally, our members demand accountability and quality healthcare services where the services are actually delivered.
TAC is launched on the steps of St Georges Cathedral
TAC marches to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, calling for a national prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme
Thabo Mbeki is elected as president and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is appointed as minister of health – the era of government-endorsed AIDS denialism begins shortly after.
TAC imports generic fluconazole in defiance of Pfizer’s patent
Médecins Sans Frontières establishes first antiretroviral treatment programme in Khayelitsha
TAC starts litigation against Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, demanding PMTCT
TAC is admitted as “friend of the court” opposing the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association after 40 drug companies sue South Africa for trying to improve access to medicines. Soon after TAC is admitted the PMA withdraws their case.
The Constitutional Court rules in favour of TAC, forcing government to provide nevirapine to pregnant mothers
TAC launches civil disobedience campaign (ADD WHY)
Hazel Tau wins Competition Commission complaint over the excessive pricing of antiretrovirals (wins is too strong a word. The commission refers the case to the tribunal and TAC then negotiate VLs that facilitate access)
TAC member Lorna Mlofana is murdered after revealing her HIV status