Prompted by John’s allusion to the intensity of activity in Cape Town last weekend, I just logged on to TAC’s website [ http://www.tac.org.za ] and read the following (excerpted, again for the record).
25 August 2002
Over 70 delegates from 21 African countries met in Cape Town from 22 to 24 August to begin developing a Pan-African HIV/AIDS treatment access movement. The following declaration is an outcome of that meeting. Please distribute far and wide.
PAN-AFRICAN HIV/AIDS TREATMENT ACCESS MOVEMENT
DECLARATION OF ACTION
We are angry. Our people are dying.
Without treatment, the 28 million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs) on our continent today will die predictable and avoidable deaths over the next decade. More than 2 million have died of HIV/AIDS in Africa just this year. This constitutes a crime against humanity. Governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, and civil society must intervene without delay to prevent a holocaust against the poor. We must ensure access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatment as part of a comprehensive continuum of care for all people with HIV who need it. In this regard, at a minimum, we call for the immediate implementation of the World Health Organization goal to ensure antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for at least three million people in the developing world by 2005. Together with our international allies, we will hold governments, international agencies, donors and the private sector accountable to meet this target.
We represent activists and organisations from 21 African countries that met in Cape Town, South Africa, 22-24 August 2002, and launched a Pan-African HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Movement dedicated to mobilising our communities and our continent to ensure access to HIV/AIDS treatment for all people who need it.
We have heard reports on the state of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention interventions throughout the continent. Remarkable achievements have been registered in every region resulting in some countries significantly reducing new infections and improving care for individuals, families and communities affected by HIV and AIDS. However, there was a consensus that current efforts are insufficient. The AIDS epidemic has exposed many of the problems facing Africa, including poverty, socio-economic and gender inequality, inadequate health-care infrastructures and poor governance. We insist that access to ARV therapy is not only an ethical imperative, but will also strengthen prevention efforts, increase uptake of voluntary counselling and testing, reduce the incidence of opportunistic infections, and reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS – including the number of orphans – on families, communities and economies.
The recognition of the human rights to life, dignity, equality, freedom and equal access to public goods including health care are the fundamental principles of a successful response to the epidemic. In this regard, we reaffirm the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Furthermore, we recognize that the rights of women, children and youth are particularly vulnerable in Africa. Treatment and prevention strategies for HIV/AIDS must consider their particular needs. Critically, the rights of people with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs) must be protected, including equal access to social services and to medical insurance plans. Discrimination and stigmatisation threaten our dignity and hamper efforts to address the epidemic. Our experience as African PLWAs has been that of token involvement, not meaningful participation, in decision-making processes. It is only through active involvement of PLWAs in all policy and implementation decisions related to HIV/AIDS that we will achieve our goals.
Alleviating the effects of the AIDS epidemic will require political leadership and greater accountability from national governments, international organisations, the private sector, especially the pharmaceutical industry, and wealthy countries, particularly the United States and European Union. We are faced with enormous barriers: national governments do not prioritise HIV/AIDS treatment; donor countries refuse to fulfill commitments to mobilise necessary resources; pharmaceutical companies deny access to essential medicines and diagnostics by charging exorbitant prices; structural adjustment programmes, driven by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, destroy public health-care systems; and debt to rich countries hampers financing of vital social services, including health care. Community mobilisation and civil society action are essential for forcing action and ensuring greater accountability from all these institutions.
Health is a prerequisite for sustainable development. The AIDS epidemic presents an immense challenge to health care systems in Africa. Sustainable economic development can only be possible through the implementation of sound social security policies that target the poor and include HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention programmes….
We know that this is an immense challenge. Millions of lives are at stake. We must succeed.