Los Angeles Times Profiles South African AIDS Advocate Zackie Achmat
The Los Angeles Times on Monday profiled South African AIDS advocate Zackie Achmat, who five years ago co-founded the AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign and pressed the South African government to provide antiretroviral drugs to the public by going on a "notorious medical strike," refusing to take antiretroviral drugs from 1998 until August 30, 2003, when the South African government pledged to announce a plan to provide universal access to the drugs. Achmat's decision to not take the drugs "showed he was willing to share the lot of his countrymen and share their struggle with AIDS-related illnesses," which "lent him the moral gravitas" that made him the figurehead for the treatment access movement, the Times reports. Achmat is currently in the United States on a 16-day round of meetings, fundraisers, interviews and receptions and was in Los Angeles when he learned of the South African government's approval of a plan to provide universal access to antiretroviral drugs (O'Connor, Los Angeles Times, 11/24). The South African Cabinet on Wednesday approved a plan for a national HIV/AIDS treatment program, including the distribution of free antiretroviral drugs through service points in every health district within one year and in every local municipality within five years. The program aims to treat 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/21). "[I]t's really a historic movement for South Africa," Achmat said at a meeting in Los Angeles with donors and representatives of AIDS organizations, adding, "You people here, as donors, have a duty. ... You have lots of money and your government's not doing enough." Phill Wilson, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Black AIDS Institute, said, "His speech was very compelling. Here's a man who's living with AIDS in South Africa, who understands that we have to fight AIDS wherever it is -- in Africa, Asia, South-Central and East L.A." (Los Angeles Times, 11/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.