Treatment Action Campaign Threatens Civil Disobedience to Urge South African Government to Provide Antiretroviral Drugs
The South African AIDS group Treatment Action Campaign on Tuesday threatened to launch a non-violent civil disobedience campaign unless the South African government develops a plan to provide antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive South Africans by the end of February, Business Day reports. Nathan Geffen, TAC spokesperson, said that the campaign could include hunger strikes, the occupation of government offices, disruption of traffic or the illegal importation of generic antiretroviral drugs. "We have a history of having tried to work with government using standard civil society mechanisms, and our actions have been the model of restraint," Geffen said, adding, "Yet all these years later, we don't have an (AIDS) treatment plan and an unambiguous commitment to providing antiretrovirals." TAC has previously challenged the South African government through lawsuits. TAC has also asked that government talks at the National Economic Development and Labor Council aimed at developing a framework agreement on an HIV/AIDS treatment plan be completed by World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 (Kahn, Business Day, 11/6).
Can Government Be Trusted?
TAC had previously set a Dec. 1 deadline for an HIV/AIDS treatment plan aimed at providing antiretroviral drugs for all HIV-positive South Africans, but South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma said the government would need until February to adopt such a plan. Geffen added that TAC expected that the government would adopt a "gradual roll-out" of the program, offering drugs to at least 100,000 people in the public sector by March 2004 and eventually offering drugs to all HIV-positive people (Agence France-Presse, 11/6). "We can give the government its last chance to prove that it will allow every person with HIV/AIDS the right to life," TAC said (Boyle, Reuters, 11/6). Geffen said that although South African government officials have recently made moves toward developing such a plan, the government has previously "broken its promises" in regards to HIV/AIDS treatment (Business Day, 11/7). "In the absence of trust, continued social mobilization is our only guarantee to save lives," TAC said (South African Press Association, 11/6). According to Business Day, approximately six million South Africans are HIV-positive, and antiretroviral drugs are currently available only in the private sector or to survivors of sexual assault or occupational injury (Business Day, 11/6).