poverty, not AIDS, killing Africans

Patrick Bond pbond at wn.apc.org
Tue Mar 14 14:34:48 PST 2000

Doug (as you know from reading e-debate on this!) and other comrades,

This stuff is explosively controversial, as it has formed the basis for the SA Department of Health denying pregnant HIV+ women the free AZT that is desperately required to save half their babies (35,000 a year). The current issue of the Mail and Guardian (http://www.mg.co.za ) has some good coverage about the AIDS doubters. But I'd rather email a note from one of the comrades allegedly benefiting from the 4-wheel drive syndrom (what a devious way for Geshekter to make the argument)...

Michael Perelman, you're at Chico, do you know Geshekter?

> Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 14:40:32 -0500
> From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com>
> Globe and Mail (Toronto) - March 14, 2000
> ...
> This means that those who question AIDS in Africa put their own
> funding at risk. I saw this at first-hand when I visited Swaziland in
> mid- December at the invitation of their HIV/AIDS Crisis Management
> Committee. I was driven from the airport to the hotel in a late model
> 4-wheel drive vehicle. It had been donated by UNICEF and was covered
> with AIDS posters urging Swazis to "use a condom, save a life." The
> committee included representatives of the major government
> ministries, as well as church and women's groups.
> After my presentation, an attorney named Teresa Mlangeni acknowledged
> that she could easily see how malnutrition, tuberculosis, malaria and
> other parasitic infections -- not sexual behaviour -- were making her
> fellow Swazis ill. But other committee members confided that if they
> voiced public doubts, they risked losing their international funding.
> And I realized that the vested interests of the international AIDS
> orthodoxy would discourage further inquiries.

Date sent: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 01:35:15 +0200 From: Zackie Achmat <zackie at pixie.co.za> Fw: South African People Living with HIV/AIDS MOBILISE!!!!

Dear All

I have attended one of the best and most difficult meetings of my life. TAC members from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape joined, NAPWA, Positive Women and YPLA members from across the country in a unfied response together with people who had never belonged to an organisation.

Break the Silence! This was South Africa's Second National Conference of People Living with HIV/AIDS organised under the auspices of the Durban 2000 Conference. The following were the most outstanding features of the conference for me.

1.. From almost every corner of our country, people with

HIV/AIDS--young and old, black and white, men and women, lesbian,

gay and heterosexual came to organise for the Durban 2000

Conference. For the first time men and women were represented in

equal numbers. And again, African people were present in

overwhelming numbers. During the Conference, Comrade Ben

Masuka--former Gauteng co-ordinator of NAPWA died--this

contributed to a spirit of unity and urgency among all the

delegates. 2.. At the opening of the Conference, the Deputy

President--Mr. Jacob Zuma was invited and he could not come. He

was replaced by the Deputy Minister of Defence-Ms Nosizwe

Madlala-Routledge. The mayor of Durban also attended. Both

speakers repeated the speech every politician has made since the

inception of the epidemic. In the first question of the

Conference, the Deputy Minister of Defence was challenged by an

African woman on the Defence Force's discriminatory employment

policy. Another person with HIV challenged the Deputy Minister to

carry the message on the TAC poster asking President Thabo Mbeki

to provide AZT/Nevirapine for pregnant women. He also challenged

the organisers of Durban 2000 to endorse the TAC's call to Glaxo

Wellcome to lower the price of AZT to R180.00 (Later in the day

Glaxo-Wellcome stated that they now provide AZT at R200,00 to the

state as a result of pressure. TAC asks government to confirm the

price of R200.00 3.. Throughout the day and at every workshop,

speaker after speaker complained of the problems and

discrimination experienced in the health care services and in

clinical trials. In the afternoon, Bristol Meyers Squibb showed

their colours when they refused to attend a panel discussion

without explanation. Glaxo-Wellcome as usual was the only drug

company prepared to engage with PWAs. However, Ms Vicki

Ehrich--Director of Corporate Affairs tried to explain how Glaxo

had invented, tested and developed AZT. She was challenged by

every speaker on their policies and the fact that they did not

invent AZT. Even the newly appointed NACOSA Communications

Director suugested that she should negotiate with TAC and other

organisations. The best question came from the person carrying

the roving microphone--"You say Glaxo funds AIDS Projects in South

Africa.?" ---"Yes! Replied the Glaxo Corporate Affairs manager.

Imagining another begging PWA prepared to take crumbs-- she

said:"This is almost our entire corporate social responsibility

portfolio."--"You mean you fund many AIDS organisations?"

Yes...."Oh! he replied! Please take all that money. Keep it and

lower the prices of all your drugs." Gob-smacked!!!! 4.. Speaker

after speaker in the conference over three days explained how

families rejected their children, husbands their wives, even

religious bodies. People spoke of poverty. And hunger. Cosatu

Deputy President Ms Joyce Pekane pledged Cosatu support for TAC

campaigns and outlined its own programme to educate its leaders

and members. She promised to take up hospital problems with unions

in the public sector. 5.. There was unanimous endorsement from

delegates including organiser Shaun Mellors for the TAC and

HealthGap proposal for a mass protest march at the opening of

Durban 2000 with the theme "Treatment Access for People

Everywhere". There was unanimous endorsement from all delegates

to the conference to reduce the price of Diflucan--the Pfizer drug

used to treat opportunistic infections to less than R3.00 per

capsule. 6.. A young African gay man with HIV challenged the

KwaZulu MEC for Health on the absence of government produced

HIV/AIDS messages for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender

communities. Dr. Zweli Mkhize stated that the government

targetted its efforts at the majoirty but would be open to

producing targetted media for the lesbian and gay community as

well. 7.. In the evening, the Minister of Health, Dr. Manto

Tshabalala-Msimang and Judge Cameron were to address a Gala Dinner

and answer questions. Judge Cameron gave one of the most moving

addresses I have heard challenging the government and making a

call to moral action. TAC will circulate the speech separately.

The Minister was faced by 20--30 people holding posters calling

for AZT/Nevirapine for pregnant mothers throughout her speech. She

angered almost every person by refusing to take questions and to

stay for dinner. In her speech she acknowledged that the TAC

request for standard treatment guidelines had been granted and

that she had completed them. She also stated that she owed TAC a

meeting. We welcome both these and will meet with the Minister.

8.. In the morning, Minister of Welfare, Dr. Zola Skweyiya joined

the conference. In a candid manner, he admiited that the Welfare

Department had neglected the poor and people with HIV/AIDS in

particular. He insisted that his department must involve people

with HIV at every level. 9.. In a surprise visit, the Deputy

President--Mr. Jacob Zuma came in person to apologise for his

absence at the opening. Desiree Booysen, the KwaZulu Natal TAC

organiser asked him to wear the HIV-Positive T-shirt! He removed

his jacket and tie and wore the t-shirt. Then, before he spoke

the Deputy President was welcomed with militant songs--"What are

you doing? Mantho Tshabalala? Do the right thing" For more than 5

minutes delegates sang and shouted slogans--"Phantsi Mantho

Tshabalala! Phantsi!--Down with Mantho Tshabalala! Then, the

Deputy-President spoke. He apologised for not coming earlier and

restated his commitment to AIDS as Deputy President and as the

chairperson of the National AIDS Council. He said he and the

Council should be given a chance and that all the concerns raised

througout the Conference would be raised in the National AIDS

Council. The Deputy President was asked on behalf of the TAC to

ask the President and the Minister of Health to ensure that

academics who use science to sow confusion about AIDS not be

allowed to participate on the international experts panel. The

Deputy-President was also asked that two people living with

HIV/AIDS elected by conference to serve on the South African

National AIDS Council. The Deputy President was told by a

delegate that people with HIV/AIDS were dying while millions of

rands were wasted. He was asked to prioritise treatment and care.

The Deputy President appealed for a joint approach to AIDS action

and said that the would personally support the inclusion of people

elected from the Conference to be the representatives of people

with HIV/AIDS on the Council. He added that his door was always

open and that AIDS was not only an issue for the Department of

Health. He endorsed the work of the Minister of Welfare and

insisted that we should not communicate through the media. 10..

TAC nominated Thanduxolo Doro and Adeline Mancgu to the South

African National AIDS Council. The nomination was supported by

NAPWA. A third person was also nominated Francinah Pitikwe.

Instead of voting all the delegates endorsed the TAC suggestion

that the government be asked to include all three people living

with HIV/AIDS as elected representatives. NAPWA, TAC, YPLA and

Positve Women's Network agreed that the delegates could be

recalled by agreement of the organisations if they did not carry

the mandates of people livimng with HIV/AIDS. 11.. Traditional

remedies, openness, nutrition, treatment lietracy, access to

AZT/Nevirapine, basic treatment guidelines, lower drug prices,

legal rights of people living with HIV/AIDS focussed all the

delegates on the need to unite. Poverty and the abuse of people

with HIV by NGOs and other people with HIV/AIDS angered many

delegates. 12.. Delegates collected money to take a young woman

who according to reports had been refused access to treatment at

King Edward. The KZN MEC was called and a delegation took the

young woman to the hospital. For all of us, this had been an

exhausting and difficult few days. Over the next few months, PWAs

will unite and build trust to face Durban 2000, the government and

the drug companies with renewed confidence. Let no-one say people with HIV/AIDS cannot speak in our own name. Let no-one say that poor people cannot comply with drug regimens. Join us in building a powerful movement and unity among all people living with HIV/AIDS on the principles of equal access to social resources including treatment. Amandla!

Patrick Bond email: pbond at wn.apc.org * phone: 2711-614-8088 home: 51 Somerset Road, Kensington 2094 South Africa work: University of the Witwatersrand Graduate School of Public and Development Management PO Box 601, Wits 2050, South Africa email: bondp at zeus.mgmt.wits.ac.za phone: 2711-488-5917 * fax: 2711-484-2729

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