Treatment Action Campaign Suspends Civil Disobedience Campaign in South Africa
The South African AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign on Tuesday announced the suspension of its nationwide civil disobedience campaign in light of an upcoming meeting of the National AIDS Council scheduled to take place on May 17, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/29). The campaign, which started in March, marked the first time in Africa that HIV/AIDS patients broke the law in large numbers to demand treatment. At the start of the campaign, the group filed charges of manslaughter against South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Trade Minister Alec Erwin for failing to provide sufficient treatment for HIV-positive people (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). TAC said that Deputy President Jacob Zuma, head of the National AIDS Council, agreed to discuss TAC's demands for state-funded antiretroviral drugs at the upcoming meeting. "We are suspending the campaign in the interest of ensuring the fullest opportunity for government to prove its good faith," a TAC executive committee statement said, adding, "However, should we encounter further unjustifiable delays or deceit, we will continue with all existing campaigns." The group is demanding that any conclusions reached at the council's meeting be sent to the government as "urgent recommendations" and be implemented within three weeks (Reuters, 4/29).
Health Minister Speaks at HIV/AIDS Mining Summit
In related news, Tshabalala-Msimang on Wednesday at a mining summit on HIV/AIDS said that antiretroviral drug distribution programs should be "done properly and not in a populist manner," the South African Press Association reports. Tshabalala-Msimang said that while the government is not against the provision of antiretrovirals, the necessary infrastructure, funding and mechanisms to prevent misuse must first be in place. Proper nutrition should be the "starting point" in boosting the immune systems of HIV-positive people, she said, according to SAPA. Tshabalala-Msimang said that the government could provide the drugs once the problems with sustainable treatment are addressed (South African Press Association, 4/30).