CALL FOR SOLIDARITY
FROM AIDS ACTIVISTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
SOLIDARITY VIGIL IN NEW YORK CITY
6:30pm Thursday, March
20th (the second vigil)
March 17 2003
The Treatment Action Campaign's programme of civil disobedience, set to begin this week, is to be supported by protests in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Jamaica, the Philippines and several African countries. These protests are to include demonstrations at many South African embassies.
This was the promise made by Aids activists from countries around the world at a press briefing at the Ritz Hotel in Sea Point, where more than 130 activists convened on Sunday for the last day of a three-day summit on improving access to treatment for HIV and Aids.
The TAC hopes 600 of its supporters will be arrested during the first leg of its campaign to place pressure on the government to set up pilot anti-retroviral programmes for people with Aids. The first leg of the campaign is to begin on Thursday and is to last a week. International protests are to take place during the second leg, from April 20 to 27. 'We're very much with our South African friends'"We strongly support TAC's civil disobedience campaign and will organise protests in our countries and cities," said Hope Mhereza, of the United Kingdom. She said she represented Aids activists in European countries as well as the United Kingdom. Said Gina Davis, from the Philippines: "We will be supporting the TAC by demonstrations in the Asian-Pacific region." Pervaiz Tufail, of Pakistan, said: "We're very much with our South African friends." Marie Mendene, of Cameroon, said "The African region has decided to support all the actions that will be implemented by the TAC - and any member of this new activists' coalition".
Although the TAC had hinted that the campaign could include the occupation of government offices and hunger strikes, its chairperson, Zackie Achmat, would not disclose details of its plans at the press briefing on Sunday. 'We are putting our government on trial for these deaths'"We support this government - it is the most democratic government this country has had," he said. "But we reject its policy that results in the deaths of 600 people with Aids every day. We are putting our government on trial for these deaths." The TAC has held more than 20 workshops on civil disobedience. A workshop is to take place on Monday at the University of Cape Town and another on Wednesday at St George's Cathedral in central Cape Town. A third, "more extensive" civil disobedience campaign was planned for June, Achmat said. The TAC also intended to take the state to court for failing to set up anti-retroviral programmes.
Achmat said that the activist group would call off its plans for civil disobedience, even at the last minute, if the government committed itself to setting up pilot programmes. "We hope the government will take the opportunity not to force us down this road." Delegates at the conference had learned that Uganda was preparing to give anti-retrovirals to 10 000 people this year and to treat 150 000 people by 2005, Achmat said. They also heard the drugs were being given to almost 10 000 people in Nigeria and that although they were available to people in Botswana, the population was so ill-educated about HIV and Aids that the country's programme was developing slowly.
The conference was attended by people from 62 countries. It was paid for by the World Bank, UNAids, World Health Organisation and the Catholic Medical Mission Board, among others.
by Jo-Anne Smetherham --- This article was originally published on page 4 of The Cape Times on 17 March 2003
AFP .16 March 2003
South African AIDS activists give government deadline for treatment
CAPE TOWN, March 16 (AFP) - AIDS activists in South Africa Sunday renewed threats to launch a campaign of civil disobedience if the government did not agree to a national treatment program. Over 600 activists of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) "are prepared to get arrested to get treatment", said the influential lobby group's chairman Zackie Achmat. "We are putting our government on trial for causing 600 deaths a day", he said at the end of an international AIDS congress here. TAC members are poised for action if, by the end of the month, the government does not begin providing anti-retroviral therapy for some five million citizens who are infected with HIV or have full-blown AIDS in South Africa.
TAC had originally given a March 21 deadline for the government to sign an agreement on providing anti-retroviral therapy decided upon last year by the country's arbitration body, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). Though it was hailed as a breakthrough, the NEDLAC deal gave no deadline for the provision of anti-retrovirals, and the government held out, saying it was still studying the financial implications of a national roll-out plan for the drugs.
South Africa has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world, with five million of its 43 million citizens carrying the virus, and 360,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2001. Achmat, quoted by South African Sapa news agency, did not list all the actions TAC would take, but said TAC -- which counts former anti-apartheid activists among its number -- could occupy public buildings. "We will make sure it's not business as usual for government," he said.
TAC spokesman Nathan Geffen said last month the civil disobedience campaign would include sit-ins, hunger strikes, the illegal importation of medicine and the illegal distribution of medicine.
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL IN NEW YORK CITY
AT SOUTH AFRICA MISSION OFFICES ..................................................................... JOIN US!
6:30 P.M. THURSDAY, March 20
Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations
333 East 38th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Midtown Manhattan
Why: In solidarity with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, and on the eve of the their very first campaign of civil disobedience.
FROM THE TREATMENT ACTION CAMPAIGN IN SOUTH AFRICA: Every day more that 600 people in South Africa die of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. Many lives could have been saved had our government shown urgency and commitment. We still have a chance to save millions of lives. Regrettably, the Minister of Health continues to equivocate. After four years of negotiations, petitions, marches, litigation and appeals, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)has decided to begin a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience on March 21 2003. TAC requests your support in this campaign. We are mobilizing 600 people across the country who will volunteer to get arrested in our civil disobedience campaign.
ACT UP invite you to join us outside the South Africa mission. Please bring white lilies to honor the dead, and your voices to fight for the living. We will also be lighting 600 candles symbolizing the 600 South Africans that die every single day of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. In accordance with TAC's wishes, the event will not be confrontational towards the South African officials, but firmly reflect the need for government action. For more information, call 212-674-9598.
download FLYER of Vigil ..(pdf)
ACT UP, Health GAP, GMHC, and the African
invite you to JOIN US outside the South African Consulate
Please bring white lillies to honor the dead, and your voices to fight for the living.
ABOUT THE VIGIL: In accordance with TAC's wishes, the event will not be confrontational towards the South African officials, but firmly reflect the need for government action."We cannot wait any longer for a visible and dynamic response from the government, business and international community. We do not need any more reports to tell us what we already know - HIV/AIDS is killing 600 people a day in this country and ruining lives and hopes. But with will and commitment this does not have to happen. With leadership from business and government, together with labour and communities, it is still possible to save lives and restore hope." -- Zackie Achmat, Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
NYC photos by Fred Askew
< February 13, 2003 First New York City Vigil
DEMONSTRATION/VIGIL AT SOUTH AFRICA CONSULATE IN NEW YORK CITY
AIDS ACTIVISTS CALL FOR SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT TO "TREAT THE PEOPLE"
FIRST VIGIL: Thursday, February 13 2003, at NOON - 1:30pm, on the eve of Treatment Action Campaign's (TAC) massive "Stand Up for Our Lives" march in Cape Town, South Africa. TAC and its allies from labor and other sectors have declared that time is up for the government of South Africa to implement a national HIV/AIDS treatment program--including a provision to produce generic AIDS drugs in order to provide treatment to the greatest number of people possible. The march will mark the opening of the South African Parliament by President Thabo Mbeki. The event is likely to be the largest HIV/AIDS demonstration in South Africa and already has the support of trade unions, religious leaders, youth and thousands of ordinary people.
WHERE: New York City, 333 38th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue. Outside of the South African Consulate General in midtown Manhattan, which is also the South Africa Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
WHAT: A vigil and demonstration in solidarity with TAC's "Treat the People" campaign in South Africa. Demonstrators will:
WHO: ACT UP, Health GAP, GMHC, and African Services Committee and others.
WHY: Activists are calling upon the South African government to immediately:
1) adopt a national prevention and treatment plan for HIV/AIDS that includes antiretroviral treatment (ART), treatment and prevention of opportunistic infections, and ART to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and;
2) use all measures including compulsory licensing and parallel importation to ensure an affordable and sustainable supply of medicines for its citizens with HIV/AIDS.
It is estimated that between 6 and 9 million adults in developing countries are currently in need of antiretroviral therapy--the AIDS drug combos that have kept many people living with HIV alive in wealth countries. At the end of 2002, only about 300,000 of them are using these drugs. Coverage in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden is greatest, remains unacceptably low, at only 1%, while over 4 million people are in need. In South Africa alone, 600 people a day, die from AIDS, due to lack of treatment.
February 12, 2003
We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply concerned about South Africaís HIV/AIDS crisis.
South Africa has been a source of hope to the world, as your nation triumphed over apartheid, established a new democracy, adopted the worldís most inclusive Bill of Rights and underwent a precedent-setting process of truth and reconciliation. As the country at the very epicenter of the global AIDS pandemic, with the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS and one of the fastest growing infection rates, it is essential that South Africa again demonstrate bold and decisive leadership. We implore the South African government to act now by introducing a treatment plan that aims to save the lives of South African people already infected with HIV.
We join the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Medical Association (SAMA), and numerous other South African organizations, in calling on the South African government to implement a national HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment plan.
We endorse TACís "Stand Up For Our Lives" march in Cape Town on February 14, 2003, which will coincide with the opening of Parliament by President Thabo Mbeki. We stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who will march for their right to healthcare and treatment. We ask the South African government to turn this march into a celebration of life by announcing a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan that includes a clear commitment to providing anti-retroviral therapy as a fundamental part of care and treatment for all South Africans living with HIV/AIDS who need it.
We recognize the challenges inherent in such an effort. We urge South Africa to exercise every available policy tool to ensure affordable and sustainable supplies of generic anti-retroviral medicines, including issuing compulsory licenses on patented AIDS drugs and beginning local production of anti-retrovirals. As Americans, we will continue to demand that our own government stops reneging on the commitment it made to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in November, 2001 when it, along with all the other WTO Member States, adopted the WTO Ministerial Declaration on the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health. We will also continue to demand that the United States contribute its fair share of the funds needed to combat the global AIDS pandemic effectively.
We welcome President Bushís pledge for increased unilateral funding for international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and will work to make sure that these promises are kept, that bilateral programs coordinate with recipient prevention, care, and treatment plans, and that the bulk of the money be channeled through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This will help ensure that unfair conditions are not placed on developing countries and that bureaucracy, duplication, and delays are minimized.
Finally, we would like to respectfully inform you that if the government fails to sign and implement a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan by the end of February 2003, we will fully support TAC and their allies in their decision to pursue a national campaign of non-violent civil disobedience. Using civil disobedience to call for access to medicines should be unnecessary and is avoidable. The world is waiting for South Africaís leadership in confronting this epidemic and implementing a program to deliver care, support, and medicines to those most in need. We believe that unity amongst activists, trade unions, business, and government is possible. We again urge the South African government to act now.
UP/ Atlanta, Atlanta, GA
ACT UP/ Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
ACT UP/ East Bay, Oakland, CA
ACT UP/ Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
ACT UP/ New York, New York, NY
ACT UP/ Paris, Paris, France
ACT UP/ Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
AIDES, Pantin, France
AIDS In Africa Committee, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, IL
AIDS Interfaith Network, Inc., New Haven, CT
AIDSETI (AIDS Empowerment and Treatment International), Washington, D.C.
Africa Action, Washington, D.C.
African Services Committee, New York, NY
All Africa Women for Peace, Pretoria, South Africa
Amahoro Association, Jersey City, NJ
American Jewish World Service, New York, NY
American Medical Student Association, Reston, Virginia
Amnesty International, London, England
Artists Against AIDS Worldwide, New York, NY
Artists for a New South Africa, Los Angeles, CA
Black AIDS Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Boston Global Action Network, Boston, MA
Canadian Treatment Action Council, Toronto, Canada
DanceSafe, Sacramento, CA
European AIDS Treatment Group, Germany
Exponents Inc., New York, NY
Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research, Brooklyn, NY
Gay Menís Health Crisis, New York, NY
German Institute for Medical Mission, Germany
Global AIDS Alliance, Washington, D.C.
Global Alliance for Justice Education, AIDS Working Group, International
Global Exchange, San Francisco, CA
Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
for International Democratic Solidarity, Athens, Greece
Hatter Support Society for Gays and Lesbians in Hungary, Budapest, Hungary
Health GAP, San Francisco, CA
Health Rights Action Group, Kampala, Uganda
Hepatitis C Outreach Project, Portland, OR
International AIDS Empowerment, El Paso, Texas
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, San Francisco, CA
International Labor Rights Fund, Washington, D.C.
INTERSECT-Worldwide, New York, NY
James S. Coleman African Studies Center, University of California Los Angeles
Jubilee Northwest Coalition, Seattle, WA
Maryknoll AIDS Task Force, Maryknoll, NY
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Royal Oak, MI
Middle East Childrenís Alliance, Berkeley, CA
Mobilization Against AIDS International, San Francisco, CA
NextAid, Los Angeles, CA
Northeastern Law School Global AIDS Campaign, Boston, MA
Northwest Coalition for AIDS Treatment in Africa, Seattle, WA
Operation USA, Los Angeles, CA
Physicians for Human Rights, Boston, MA
Planet Poz, Albuquerque, NM
Project Inform, San Francisco, CA
Saint Michael's College Student Global AIDS Campaign, Colchester, VT
Shanti, San Francisco, CA
South Africa Development Fund, Boston, MA
Student Global AIDS Campaign, Cambridge, MA
Survive AIDS, San Francisco, CA
Sydafrika Kontakt, Denmark
Test Positive Aware Network, Chicago, IL
TransAfrica Forum, Washington, D.C.
Universities for Access to Essential Medicine, University of Minnesota
Washington State Africa Network, Seattle, WA
Yale AIDS Network, New Haven, CT
Thousands of Aids activists to march on Parliament
Posted Fri, 14 Feb 2003
Thousands of Aids activists, trade unionists, religious leaders and members of the public are to march on Parliament at its opening on Friday, in a bid to urge government to implement a national Aids treatment plan by the end of February.
It is also widely expected that the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), organisers of the "Stand up for our Lives" march, will announce plans for a non-violent civil disobedience campaign.
The campaign would begin in March, but according to the TAC it would only proceed should government fail to implement, by the end of February, a national Aids prevention and treatment plan that includes antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The plan would also have to include a commitment by government to produce generic Aids drugs, the TAC said.
"If government had to seriously commit to the roll-out of ART, that would be a basis for working together and halting civil disobedience... and its hard to see how government could roll out ART without producing generics," said the TAC's Nathan Geffen on Thursday.
According to TAC chair Zackie Achmat, South Africans could not "wait any longer for a visible and dynamic response from the government, business and international community".
With leadership it is still possible to save lives Ò Achmat
"We do not need any more reports to tell us what we already know-- that Aids is killing 600 people a day... but that with will and commitment this does not have to happen. With leadership... it is still possible to save lives," he said.
The United States-based Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) and Health GAP concurred.
On Thursday, the two groups, in solidarity with the TAC, called on the South African government to immediately adopt a national treatment plan that would include antiretroviral treatment.
They also demanded government use all measures, including compulsory licensing and parallel importation, to ensure an affordable and sustainable supply of medicines for Aids sufferers.
"GMHC and Health GAP know that effective treatment efforts can stem the tide of death from Aids. In the United States, the numbers of Aids deaths are down from the peaks of the 1980s and early 1990s, due to the advent of antiretroviral therapy," the groups said.
US-based activists drum up support
Also on Thursday, US-based Aids activists, including ACT UP, Health GAP, GMHC, and African Services Committee, gathered outside the South African Consulate General in midtown Manhattan for a vigil and demonstration in solidarity with the TAC.
The activists played drums, sang TAC protest songs and presented a memorandum, signed by hundreds of organisations, to consulate officials calling on them to get the South African government to implement a national Aids treatment programme.
MSF send an open letter to Mbeki
And on Wednesday, the international aid organisation Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) sent an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President Jacob Zuma and to Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin.
In the letter, MSF expressed its "profound disappointment" that government had to date failed to implement a national Aids treatment plan, and called on it to rectify the situation before the end of February.
"For the past four years, MSF has witnessed first-hand the daily devastation caused by the Aids epidemic in South Africa and the extraordinary clinical benefits and hope that the availability of ARV treatment brings to the community.
"Our work in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, where we provide ARV treatment for nearly 350 people with Aids, clearly demonstrates the feasibility of ARV treatment in resource-poor settings," MSF said in the letter.
They said that despite the success of this and other programmes implemented by MSF in rural areas in South Africa, the programmes could not become a substitute for something that was ultimately the responsibility of government.
Before proceeding to Parliament on Friday, the TAC will hand over a memorandum to the United States Consulate General, asking the US government to allow poor countries to import generic medicines.
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