On 10 December 2012, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) turned 14 years old. Since we were born on the steps of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on International Human Rights Day in 1998, it seems like the world has changed. This year’s birthday comes at a time where many celebrate signs that we moving in the right direction due to expanded access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). 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 Zero new HIV infections, Zero deaths and Zero discrimination.
In the spirit of celebrating our 14 years of activism we note that:
Mother to child HIV transmission in South Africa has been reduced from 30 percent in 2002 to 2.7 percent: this did not fall out of the sky through the mercy of our leaders. It took sweat, struggle, confrontations and court battles to achieve this. The 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:
Access to ARVs 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 activists 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 three days to two weeks of treatment. This highlights the 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 to the three zero’s and that include strengthening the health system to respond to the needs 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 ensure 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 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 thank its thousands of 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:
Name of Bank: Nedbank
Account Holder: Treatment Action Campaign
Account Number: 100 972 6269
Branch: Cape Town
Branch code: 100 909
To inquire about volunteering, contact 021 422 1700 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about the Treatment Action Campaign, refer to www.tac.org.za.