...International Actions Reports


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SOLIDARITY ACTIONS FOR SOUTH AFRICAN AIDS ACTIVISTS

Every day more than 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.

STANDING UP FOR THE LIVES
OF 5 MILLION SOUTH AFRICANS LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS.

STOP THE 600 AIDS DEATHS EACH DAY. .

from Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa

CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN HIV/AIDS TREATMENT AND PREVENTION PLAN

... APRIL 24th, 2003

IN SOLIDARITY TODAY: 600 paper cranes were delivered to the South African Embassy in JAPAN. ACT UP PARIS zapped the South African Embassy. 600 red tulips were delivered to the embassy in the NETHERLANDS. 600 pairs of shoes were delivered in WASHINGTON DC, LOS ANGELES, LONDON and MILAN. Doctors in KENYA held a press conference. AIDS activists from all over LATIN AMERICA have issued a united statement. In addition, solidarity actions were planned in BELGIUM, CANDA, FINLAND, GERMANY, IVORY COAST, VENEZUALA, JAMAICA, NAMIBIA, NIGERIA, SRI LANKA, TANZANIA, THAILAND and UGANDA ... and the list continues to grow.

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April 24, 2003
Washington, D.C
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Demonstration at the South Africa Embassy

600 Pairs of Shoes delivered to the South African Ambassador.

One pair for each person who dies in South Africa each day because of lack of access to HIV/AIDS treatment.


About 300 activists from ACT UP New York, ACT UP Philadelphia, Health GAP, Africa Action, African Services Committee, Student Global AIDS Campaign, and many community organizations in Philadelphia and New York like Stand Up Harlem and Stop and Surrender protested outside the South African Embassy in Washington DC today in solidarity with TAC's demands for a national HIV/AIDS treatment plan. Buses from both cities were overflowing with people. At the end of the protest we delivered a memorandum to South Africa's (acting) Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Nhlapo, after protesters filed in and emptied box after box of shoes in a massive, 4-foot tall heap in front of him, with lilies set beside the shoes. Dr. Nhlapo received the memorandum, stated that South Africa's efforts to fight AIDS had been commended by the UN, that he believed we could agree on a lot, and that he would communicate our message to his government. I was MCing the demonstration, and reminded the crowd after the Ambassador accepted the memorandum that unless the government implemented a national treatment plan, including ARVs for the public sector, that in fact we were not in accord. There was a meeting with Dr. Nhlapo just after the protest. ____| OneWorld.net | Washington Post_|_download flyer .(pdf) ____
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International Actions Reports

Six Hundred Red Tulips

Community of Dutch-based NGOs March on the South African Embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Marching from the central train station, chanting through the narrow city center streets, 50 activists from across the Netherlands conducted a five minute die-in in front of the South African Embassy. 600 red tulips, one for each HIV death today in South Africa, were laid at gate to the Embassy. Three HIV+ activists, from three different continents, working in Dutch-based HIV organizations, were admitted to the Embassy to present a petition from the community of Dutch NGOs to the First Secretary to the Ambassador.

Tomorrow -- same number of deaths, no tulips.

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Today 24 April 2003 ACT UP PARIS zapped the South African embassy in Paris after the ambassador refused to see them.

Today people all around the world are demonstrating and picketing at South African embassies and consulates, meeting with South African officials, holding press conferences, petitioning and engaging in other actions in support of the demand by South African people-with-aids group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) for a comprehensive treatment and prevention plan.

In Japan, 600 paper cranes, symbolizing daily AIDS deaths in South Africa, are being delivered today by demonstrators at the South African Embassy. In the Netherlands, marchers are delivering 600 red tulips and participate in a 'die in' at the embassy, while in Los Angeles, Washington DC, London and Milan, 600 pairs of shoes will represent the daily AIDS deaths. Doctors in Kenya will hold a press conference and AIDS activists from all over Latin America have issued a united statement. In addition, solidarity actions are also planned in Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Jamaica, Namibia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Uganda - and the list continues to grow.

The reason for this global civil disobedience campaign of people with aids and their allies is the need for the South African government to take dramatic action to end the aids crisis in South Africa.

In South Africa, up to five million people are infected with HIV, and AIDS is now killing approximately 600 people every day. Almost no progress has been registered toward the start of treatment programmes since the TAC and government jointly won the lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry, and the subsequent government declaration in favor of ARV treatment on April 17 2002. The delay by government in acting on its own aids fight policies is leading to immense suffering and loss for the most vulnerable of South Africans.

Tomorrow Friday April 25 Deputy President Zuma meets with his French counterpart in Paris. Mr Zuma must make an irreversible and unequivocal commitment to an HIV/aids treatment programme in the public sector. The civil disobedience campaign by TAC in South Africa and allies in France and around the world will stop when the government of this country makes such a commitment... | ACTUP PARIS |

600 Shoes -- Los Angeles

600 Shoes -- MILAN, ITALY

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The memorandum below was presented to embassy officials in Washington DC
during the demonstration sponsored by ACT UP New York, ACT UP Philadelphia, Africa Action,
African Services Committee, Health GAP, and Student Global AIDS Campaign.
After the demonstration we meet with Deputy Chief of Mission Thandabantu Nhlapo.

Memorandum from Activists
To Deputy Chief of Mission Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo
Embassy of South Africa to the United States
Washington, DC
April 24, 2003

Today, we stand in solidarity with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), to honor the lives of the 600 South Africans with HIV/AIDS who die needlessly each day without access to life-saving treatment, and to support TAC's demand that the government immediately make a commitment to a comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan. South Africa's Freedom Day is in a few days' time. We implore the South African government to use this day as an opportunity to uphold the Cabinet's promise of April 17, 2002 to rollout a national antiretroviral treatment program -- to act now to save the lives of millions of South Africans living with HIV/AIDS.

South Africa has been a beacon of hope to the world, as your nation triumphed over apartheid, established a new democracy, adopted the world's premiere human rights Constitution, and undertook a healing process of truth and reconciliation. But the South African government's negligence in the face of the AIDS epidemic has been staggering. South Africa is 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 has the capacity not only to respond this national crisis by providing universal access to antiretroviral therapy in the public sector, but also to provide a model for the entire continent. And yet it has refused to adopt a sound policy on AIDS treatment.

Two years ago, we were at this same space--the South African embassy in Washington, D.C.--protesting alongside the South African government and embassy officials the drug company lawsuit against your Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. Before that we together opposed Vice President Gore and other U.S. officials in their effort to mpose trade sanctions on the South African government. And so it is with deep sadness that we return to the embassy today to protest the government's intransigence. We regret that the government has not responded to the innumerable attempts of TAC and its allies to join with the government to develop and implement a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan, and that TAC has thus been forced to launch a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the thousands of people who are fighting for their right to healthcare and treatment-for their very lives.

We recognize the challenges inherent in developing a program for universal access to anti-retroviral treatment for all South Africans living with HIV/AIDS. We therefore urge South Africa to make use of 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 U.S.-based activists, 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.

But today, we stand before you with a simple message: act now to put an end to the needless suffering and death.

The South African government can halt the needless deaths, return to negotiations at NEDLAC, and commit to signing a Framework Agreement on a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan, thus demonstrating to the world South Africa's leadership in confronting this epidemic. Again, we urge the South African government in the strongest possible terms to act now to save the lives of millions of people with HIV/AIDS.

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Forwarded from Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa

Every day more than 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.

CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN HIV/AIDS TREATMENT AND PREVENTION PLAN
THURSDAY, 24 APRIL 2003

Dear TAC supporter,

PICKET, WRITE LETTERS AND CHALLENGE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS
ALL OVER THE WORLD TO IMPLEMENT A TREATMENT AND PREVENTION PLAN,
INCLUDING ANTIRETROVIRAL THERAPY

Over 600 South Africans die of HIV/AIDS every day. Many more die throughout the developing world. This does not have to be. In wealthy countries and Brazil, people with HIV/AIDS are living longer, healthier lives because they have access to life-saving medicines.

We need your solidarity and help. As you may know, the Treatment Action Campaign has been waging a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience in protest of the South African government's negligence in the matter of providing treatment to South Africans living with HIV/AIDS. TAC's decision to turn to civil disobedience has come after four years of discussions, debates, negotiations, providing research to government, pickets, marches,court cases and numerous other attempts at using the democratic instruments of the new South Africa. However, although some progress has been made, the South African government remains intransigent, especially over the issue of making antiretroviral treatment more accessible, but also with regard to the general improvement of the public health sector.

By pressurising the South African government to implement a treatment plan, we believe the path to treatment in many other poor countries, especially in Southern Africa, will become more feasible. The focus of attention will shift onto the responsibility of the international community to fund treatment programmes and the experience of the South African situation will be of benefit to other countries.

A detailed explanation of why we are turning to civil disobedience campaign is contained in the document "Dying for Treatment", which can be read at http://www.tac.org.za/Documents/CivilDisobedience/briefingdocument.htm.

As part of this campaign we are planning a Day of International Action to demonstrate that the world supports the struggle of South Africans for universal access to treatment. The Day of International Action is scheduled for 24 April.

We are hoping that our international friends and allies will help us in this effort by organizing demonstrations of support in their countries, such as protests at South African embassies, consulates, and delegations. To find out where your nearest South African representative is, go to http://www.dfa.gov.za/sa-abroad/sashort.htm.

We also encourage protests and hard-hitting question and answer sessions to be organised for South African ministers and government representatives visiting foreign countries.

If a public protest is not feasible, requesting a meeting with a local South African official to voice your concern is another option. We also encourage you to show your support in other ways, such as sending letters, faxes, and/or email to South African officials. We are attaching a sample letter with the relevant addresses. Please copy letters to the South African media and the media in your country.

Let us hear from you how you are going to participate. We will be posting on the TAC website a list of worldwide actions (www.tac.org.za), as well as contact information. Feel free to forward this appeal widely and to tell us about others we should contact. In solidarity, Vuyani Jacobs (TAC Labour Co-ordinator) and Queries: vuyani@tac.org.za

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SAMPLE LETTER TO SA GOVERNMENT FOR 24 APRIL

Mr J Zuma (Deputy-President, South Africa)
Dr ME Tshabalala-Msimang (Minister of Health, South Africa)
Mr A Erwin (Minister of Trade and Industry, South Africa
Dr NC Dlamini Zuma (Minister of Foreign Affairs, South Africa)
120 Plein Street
CAPE TOWN
8001

24 April 2003

Fax: +27 21 464 2271

Dear Mr Zuma, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang, Mr Erwin and Dr Dlamini Zuma

SOUTH AFRICA NEEDS AN HIV/AIDS TREATMENT AND PREVENTION PLAN

We are deeply concerned that the South African government has not
adopted or implemented an HIV/AIDS treatment plan. Over 600 South
Africans die a day on average of HIV/AIDS. Most of them die because
they cannot afford to buy life-saving medicines. We appeal to you
agree to the demands of the Treatment Action Campaign to sign the
NEDLAC Framework Agreement for an HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention
Plan and to make an irrevocable commitment to providing
antiretroviral therapy in the public sector. If South Africa does
this, it will demonstrate that wide-scale treatment can be made
available in the developing world and that there is no reason why the
international community cannot unite to make life-saving treatment
available to poor people everywhere.

South Africa's transition to democracy has been remarkable. Its
Constitution and democratic structures have set a magnificent example
for the whole world. But the South African Government's negligent
response to the HIV epidemic is damaging its international
reputation. We appeal to you: For the sake of millions of lives give
meaning to the Constitutional rights to life, dignity and health-care
by implementing an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention plan. South
Africa's Freedom Day is in a few days time. This marks the first
democratic election in South Africa. Please use this day as an
opportunity to give hope to millions of people by announcing the
rollout of an antiretroviral treatment programme.

Sincerely,

[ Your name, organisation, full address ]

CC: Local Consulate-General/Ambassador
CC: Local Media & info@tac.org.za

 

 
.Kebareng Moeketsi

Remembrance by Mark Heywood, TAC National Secretary:

On April 1st .Kebareng Moeketsi was lowered into her grave in a cemetery in Midrand. It was an early Autumn morning, a Tuesday, and several hundred people had gathered to say farewell. They stood carefully around the edges of other fresh graves: a company of the living mingling with the growing company of the dead. Kebareng was not alone in her young age. Many of the other recently departed were also born in the 1960s. Here and there adult mounds are interrupted by those of children.

Kebareng had died suddenly of her HIV infection. On March 20th she had been 'well'. She had marched as a leader of 200 TAC volunteers to the Sharpeville police station, and personally handed in an affidavit placing responsibility for the HIV-related death of one of her friends at the doors of the Ministers of Health and Trade and Industry.

I had noticed her at the TAC workshop the day before, marked out by the depth of feeling in her eyes, a pretty and dignified young woman, strong in her silence. A week later, the sudden onset of pneumonia, diahorrea together with the TB she was already being treated for was enough to kill her. Why did Kebareng die of AIDS when others live with HIV? The Alexandra clinic was only kilometres away, but it did not keep anti-retroviral medicines -- because that is government policy. It's nurses and doctors are mostly not trained to use ARVs - because that is government policy.

Across the health curtain that separates public health from private health, there were a plethora of modern clinics and pharmacies stocked with the medicines that would have kept her alive. But these clinics and medicines are for the old rich (apartheid's beneficiaries) and new rich (the rapid risers of new South Africa) -- people who are secure that in their time of need they will get help. Kebareng might have bought herself temporary access to health, but at over R1000 a month it would not have been sustainable.

Kebareng is not a statistic. She was a new South African, a mother of an 11 year old boy, a daughter, a resident of Alexandra township, a young woman who had chosen to care for others in her situation. Kebareng chose to campaign for anti-retrovirals because it was a campaign for her own life: for her right to continue to be a mother, a breathing, feeling human being, a rights-holder in the new South Africa.

It is these facts that make accusations by ANC leaders such as Cameron Dugmore that TAC has a "narrow" focus on anti-retroviral medicines so unfounded and shameful.

TAC is made up of thousands of people whose work takes them daily into the homes and wards of the sick and dying. TAC is made up of people of many hats: people who work tirelessly to prevent new HIV infections; nurses who treat the illnesses it causes, people with HIV in their own bodies or those that they love. All these people have drawn the conclusion that if medicines exist which help to restore wellness for rich human beings then they should also be available to the poor. Government's excuses and delays - its insulting attempts to deny the human toll of this epidemic - don't wash. Time runs out literally.

To assert the right to life, to continue to breathe, is not "narrow". Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic is a reality, and for many people in the late stages of HIV infection access to medicines determines whether or not that right is extinguished.

120 years ago in one of his novels Charles Dickens used the death of young Joe the street sweeper to rage against the premature deaths of the poor. Today, his words should ring for Kebareng, and sound shame in the ears of those who could have saved her:

"Dead, your majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, right reverends and wrong reverends of every order. Dead, men and women born with heavenly compassion in your hearts.

 




For Immediate Release: April 23, 2003
Contact Sharonann Lynch, ACT UP New York, cell: (646) 645-5225

GLOBAL DAY OF PROTEST TO DEMAND SOUTH AFRICA GOVERNMENT PROVIDE AIDS
TREATMENT TO MILLIONS FACING PREVENTABLE DEATHS

AIDS ACTIVISTS DEMONSTRATE AT SOUTH AFRICAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Simultaneous actions planned in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia

(Washington, D.C.) Protesters will deliver 600 pairs of shoes, symbolizing the number of preventable deaths each day of HIV-positive South Africans who have no access to AIDS medicines at a 1 PM march and rally Thursday April 24, at the South African Embassy. The march will leave from Massachusetts Ave & California St NW, arriving at 3051 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. Protest sponsors include ACT UP New York and Philadelphia, Health GAP, Student Global AIDS Campaign, and African Services Committee.

The Washington, D.C. rally marks a global day of protest called by the largest grassroots AIDS activist group in South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The day of protest is part of a broadly supported campaign launched by TAC to force the South African government to support a national HIV/AIDS treatment plan. Simultaneous actions are planned in major cities throughout the world, from Nairobi to Amsterdam (for more details about international actions, contact TAC spokesperson, Vuyani Jacobs: tel: 011 27 73 209 3606, email: vuyani@tac.org.za and go to www.tac.org.za.)

Members of ACT UP, including activists dressed in mourning shrouds, will deliver the 600 empty shoes to South African embassy representatives, while protesters chant, holding banners and playing drums.

"People with AIDS are global citizens-we have an obligation to support South Africans living with HIV and demand that their government begin to treat its 4.6 million HIV positive people," said John Bell of ACT UP Philadelphia. "We look forward to the day when the South African government will commit to treating people with HIV, so all sectors of civil society can be partners with government in immediate implementation of a treatment plan to save lives. Until that time, we must stand with South Africans who are fighting for their lives, and fighting for the life of their great country."

The South African government has refused to endorse a national plan for treatment and care, including access to antiretrovirals, despite widespread national support for treating people living with HIV, and widespread acknowledgement of the massive social, public health, and economic damage to the country as a result of untreated HIV disease.

After four years of pressure on their government, TAC activists launched a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience March 20, 2003 because, "Our consciences no longer can allow us to stand by and let people die needlessly while government procrastinates, delays and impedes the development and implementation of an HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention plan. We support our Constitution. In fact our civil disobedience actions draw attention to the fact that the government does not respect the right to life, dignity, equality and health care access of children, men and women who live with HIV/AIDS" (excerpt from TAC's submission to the South African Human Rights Commission, April 1 2003).

The vast majority of people in South Africa have no access to the medicines that have transformed AIDS in wealthy countries into something approaching a chronic, manageable illness. The South African government's own research has confirmed that HIV is the leading cause of death among women between the ages of 15 and 39, of maternal mortality, and is a major factor exacerbating poverty.

 

 



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