Africa: Action on AIDS, 04/05/02

Africa: Action on AIDS, 04/05/02

Africa: Action on AIDS Date distributed (ymd): 020405 Document reposted by Africa Action

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

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Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +health+ +US policy focus+


This posting contains two documents related to action on AIDS, in Washington and South Africa: (1) a press release from the coalition organizing a rally and lobbying day on Wednesday, April 10, and (2) the April 3rd testimony by Treatment Action Campaign chairperson Zackie Achmat at the UN Commission on Human Rights.

In related news, on April 4 the Constitutional Court in South Africa dismissed government's application for leave to appeal against the Pretoria High Court order forcing it to provide the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women. The full court hearing will be May 2 and 3.

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Africa Action Note

Africa Action will be participating in the rally and lobby day on April 10. We encourage all Africa Action supporters in the Washington area to join as well. If you are able to participate in a lobby visit, please contact coordinator Heather Nolen at Church World Service (202-543-6336).

Africa Action fully supports the minimum demands agreed for the rally. In fact, as noted by Paul Davis of ACT UP Philadelphia and Health GAP. even more funding is required for the U.S. to pay its fair share: $2.5 billion in additional funds for fiscal year 2003 are needed for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), in addition to U.S. bilateral funding for AIDS programs.


ACT UP / Jubilee USA / Artists for a New South Africa / Health GAP


April 4, 2002

AIDS Activists, Danny Glover, Rep. Barbara Lee Rally at Capitol Against Global AIDS Disaster; Demand Congress Donate the Dollars, Treat the People, and Drop the Debt


Contact sponsoring organizations for more information:

Health GAP (Global Access Project): Paul Davis: 215.833.4102 mobile

ACT UP New York: Sharonann Lynch: 212.674.9598 tel / 917.612.3058 mobile

ACT UP Philadelphia: Asia Russell: 215.474.9329 tel / 267.475.2645 mobile

Artists for a New South Africa: Sharon Gelman: 310.204.1748 tel / 310.779.3346 mobile

Jubilee USA Network: Mara Vanderslice: 202.783.0129 tel / 202.255.6380 mobile

(Washington DC) 1,000 people with AIDS, public health experts, religious leaders and other activists, joined by actor Danny Glover and Rep. Barbara Lee, will rally at the Capitol steps April 10, 12:30 PM. The demonstrators will carry a giant alarm clock, declaring that "time is up" for Congressional action to stop the global AIDS catastrophe. Activists are calling for immediate increases in money from Congress for affordable AIDS treatment and prevention in developing countries, where 95% of people with HIV live. Activists are also calling for new action from Congress on debt cancellation for countries hardest hit by AIDS.

"Every day Congress sits on its hands is another day that we do not prevent the deaths of 8,000 men, women, children from AIDS," said Sharonann Lynch of ACT UP New York and Health GAP. "The epidemic of untreated HIV disease is transforming entire countries in Africa into massive graveyards."

The rally comes just before a vote is expected in Congress on the President's emergency supplemental budget request. Activists are demanding Congress amend Bush's request to include $750 million for the new Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

The GFATM has already received $5 billion in 5-year funding requests from poor countries, but has only $800 million on hand to spend. Two weeks after the rally, the GFATM will meet in New York City, where the Board will determine for the first time which funding requests will be turned down due to insufficient contributions from rich countries like the U.S.

President Bush has requested only $200 million for the GFATM in 2003 less than the U.S. contribution for 2002, and less than the cost of making the movie Titanic. "For two decades, U.S. policy on global AIDS has been primarily one of neglect. Our inaction has lethal consequences," said Sharon Gelman, executive director of Artists for a New South Africa. "We're the richest country in the world. Thus far, we've been unwilling to spend the money needed to turn this crisis around and make treatment available to our fellow human beings in poor countries. The AIDS pandemic is destabilizing the economies and societies of sub-Saharan Africa and soon in other regions. The U.S. must give its fair share--not to do so is inhumane and the results, unthinkable."

Adequate funding for the GFATM is widely seen as the best hope for significantly increasing access to life-extending medicines in poor countries, where treatment is most needed, yet priced out of reach. Activists are also calling on Congress to spend $2.5 billion for 2003 on combating global AIDS, with at least $1.3 billion going to the GFATM.

As proportion of wealth, the U.S. has been less generous than all other country contributors to the GFATM -- including least developed countries like Rwanda. "Right now the GFATM is too starved for funds to accomplish its goals," said Paul Davis of ACT UP Philadelphia and Health GAP. "Unless Congress turns Bush's stingy 2003 budget request into the $2.5 billion experts agree is the U.S. fair share, 2003 will be another year of business as usual -- another 3 million dead from AIDS."

"Congress must fight for debt cancellation to save lives," said Mara Vanderslice, spokesperson for Jubilee USA Network. "Despite limited debt relief, over half of African countries are still spending more on their debts than on health care." African nations are estimated to spend $13.5 billion each year servicing debts. Much of those funds could be used for critical HIV treatment and prevention efforts.

Hundreds of organizations and activists are calling for:

* President Bush's emergency supplemental request to Congress must be amended to include $750 million for fiscal year 2002 for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

* Congress must appropriate $2.5 billion in new money for global AIDS for fiscal year 2003: at least $1.3 billion for the GFATM, mostly for HIV treatment programs.

* 100 per cent debt cancellation from the World Bank and IMF to free up resources for HIV treatment and prevention. When the World Bank asks Congress for funding this year, U.S. money should be conditioned on support for complete debt cancellation and an end to World Bank economic policies that restrict access to health care, education, and clean water.


Speech by Zackie Achmat at 58th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights

3rd April 2002

Realising the right to health: Access to HIV/AIDS-related mediciation

The role of civil society in South Africa 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights

Zackie Achmat TAC Chairperson

1.Madam Chairperson, High Commissioner Robins, distinguished members, guests and friends, Ms. Miriam Maluwa, I want to thank you on behalf of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) for this opportunity to address you. TAC is a campaign of people with HIV/AIDS, our friends and families and the broader community. Alongside the organisations of women, children, health professionals, TAC is supported by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the National Council of Trade Unions, the South African Council of Churches, Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and many other community-based organisations. The AIDS Law Project is one of the leading partner organisations of TAC. We work for HIV treatment access, the elimination of new HIV infections and an affordable, quality health care system for all people in our country and beyond.

2.For children, women and men with HIV/AIDS the rights to dignity, life, equality and their inter-connection with the right to health care access, particularly access to medicines including anti-retrovirals stands between us and death. This is particularly true in poor countries and poor communities in wealthy countries. These rights - dignity, life, equality - are essential tools in our struggle to remove the barriers to HIV treatment and health care for all. What are these barriers?

3.The lack of scientific and treatment literacy is a major obstacle in our work to gain access to treatment. Governments, health care professionals and people with HIV/AIDS are often unaware of the treatments for opportunistic infections and how anti-retrovirals work. Our professionals in all spheres lack the understanding of how clinical trials work, the basics of pharmacology and so on. However, this obstacle is not insurmountable. When we started our campaign for access to AZT for pregnant women, people including doctors and nurses asked us what AZT was. Today millions of people in our country know of AZT, Nevirapine and other anti-retrovirals, as well as fluconazole, acyclovir and cotrimoxazole. TAC has learnt from the experiences of Northern NGOs in particular GMHC, TAG and Project Inform. But, we apply these lessons to our own cultural context. Today, people without education in our country speak of treatment literacy and though we have a great deal of work to do, our experience has shown that this barrier can be overcome by civil society working where possible in partnership with government and the private sector.

4.Patents and prices: In our country herpes has not been treated for many years because of the high prices resulting from the patents on acyclovir. The patent has expired but the guidelines for the management of syndromic treatment of STDs do not yet include acyclovir. Our government has committed itself to changing this situation. Fluconazole for the treatment of systemic thrush and crytococcal meningitis was beyond the reach of the vast majority of people with HIV/AIDS because of the price and patent. This is also true of anti-retrovirals for HIV treatment.

5.The government of President Nelson Mandela and the able Health Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma developed a programme to reform the health care system. This included the medicines legislation - the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997. As you are aware, the world's multinational pharmaceutical companies took our government to court for that legislation. In particular, they objected to measures such as generic substitution of off-patent medicines (widely practised in the US, Europe and elsewhere), a pricing committee and parallel importation. Together with ACT-UP New York, Philadelphia, HealthGAP Coalition, IGLHRC, MSF, Consumer Project on Technology who mobilised public opinion in Europe and North America, TAC mobilised civil society in South Africa to support the legislation and the government. We were joined by OXFAM, ACTSA, countless other NGOs and from Windhoek to Manila, from London to Delhi, Paris to Rio de Janeiro civil society heeded our call for a global day of action and sustained pressure on the drug companies. Almost exactly a year ago, the drug companies capitulated. What were the immediate results of that campaign?

6.Not since the campaign on breastmilk substitutes has there been such a widespread mobilisation of international civil society on a health issue. For the first time, one of the most powerful multinational corporation lobbies became accountable to civil society, government and their shareholders for profiteering at the expense of health and lives.

7.Drug prices plummeted in South Africa and internationally. The majority of our people who are employed (30% people are unemployed) earn less than R2000.00 per month. In 1998, when TAC started its campaign a months supply of antiretrovirals cost between R4500.00 and R2500.00 per month. Now, they cost between R1800.00 and R700.00 per month. The generic ARVs used by MSF in its pilot ARV project in Khayelitsha, Cape Town costs R450.00. Private medical schemes provide ARV therapy in our country - our members of Parliament and their families have access to them. Since the access campaign started and since the court case last April, the number of people in our country on ARV therapy has increased from 5 000 to 20 000. However, diagnostic and monitoring tools remain the biggest problem. We believe that with initiatives such as that of the Thai GPO and the Brazilian government the cost of ARVs can be reduced to R250.00 per month. International support for the efforts of the governments of Thailand, Brazil, Nigeria and others who use generic ARVs was strengthened following civil society mobilisation on the SA court case.

8.Political will in our country remains the single largest obstacle to access to ARVs and the proper treatment of opportunistic infections. This lack of political will is an obstacle to dealing with the drug companies - the government has failed to use its hard won legislation. It has the legal power through the Patents Act, the Medicines Act and the Competition Act. It also has the support of the DOHA Agreement to use compulsory licences for generic production - it has failed to do this.

9.Most significantly, as we speak - the Constitutional Court in our country is hearing an urgent appeal from our government against an interim order asking it to provide Nevirapine to pregnant women with HIV where health professionals have the capacity to test and counsel pending an appeal. More than 70 000 children in our country are infected with HIV through pregnancy and breastfeeding every year. Fewer than 10% of all pregnant women have access to counselling, testing and information on breastfeeding and HIV.

TAC regretfully took our government to court to provide Nevirapine or any other appropriate ARV to pregnant women to help reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission, and, to develop a plan over two years to provide counselling, testing, feeding information and where possible alternatives to breastmilk throughout the country. We took this decision with pain and regret after five years of negotiation.

TAC and all its partner organisations have helped the South African government establish one of the best legal and human rights frameworks to deal with the epidemic. No-one can lose their job because of their HIV status, no-one can be excluded from medical aid schemes, schools, housing and any social services. These are the products of partnership.

But since, 1998 and specifically since October 1999 when our President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki questioned the link between HIV and AIDS - the health system has been paralysed. Political will has been absent to deal with another significant barrier to HIV treatment -- health care infrastructure. Finance, access to medicines and development of human resources can be achieved through sharing the burden with the private sector, medical schemes and civil society.

10.We know universal coverage is not possible overnight. A commitment to universal coverage, a treatment plan and political commitment will save the lives of millions of people in our country. We appeal to everyone to assist us in changing the difficult circumstances we face in our country where the position of HIV denialists has become an orthodoxy.

11.However, there is a greater challenge than the denial of the South African government. As we speak of human rights and access to HIV/AIDS medicines and treatment for malaria, TB, leishmaniasis and other neglected diseases, we also have to speak of international responsibility.

The greatest challenge is to countries such as the USA, Britain, the European Union, Japan, Switzerland and others to provide funding to the GFATM as requested by UN secretary-general Mr. Kofi Annan. The fund needs $10-12 billion annually. It is a shame that it has received less than a quarter of this money.

12.In conclusion, the power of the drug companies to dictate their terms has been temporarily halted. The international community needs to be galvanised to provide the funds needed to deal with HIV/AIDS. Significant development assistance including debt cancellation is essential. This can be achieved through organisation of civil society in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as North America and Europe to assist our governments as partners and where necessary to convince them through action.

Thank you


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Fri, 5 Apr 2002 12:35:05 -0500 Subject: Africa: Action on AIDS

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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