In a new book, Fighting for our Lives the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an HIV/AIDS lobby group, looks back on more than a decade of activism. IRIN/PlusNews presents a timeline of 12 years of highlights as the group translated action into wider access to HIV treatment:
1998 – The TAC is launched on the steps of Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral with its first campaign - calling for the provision of the antiretroviral (ARV) Zidovudine (AZT) for pregnant, HIV-positive mothers to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). The organization's first statement also urges the government to develop a plan to provide affordable treatment for all HIV-positive South Africans;
March 1999 – After starting a petition for the introduction of PMTCT services, TAC members march on one of the country's largest hospitals, Chris Hani-Baragwaneth, in Johannesburg's largest township of Soweto. TAC protesters stage a lie-in at the hospital's gate;
June 1999 – Thabo Mbeki is elected president and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is appointed health minister, ushering in an era of “government-endorsed AIDS denialism”, according to the book. Later, a Harvard University study will estimate that Mbeki's delay in rolling out ARVs caused the death of 300,000 South Africans in the next five years;
2000 – As the TAC imports the generic version of the antifungal medication, fluconazole, in defiance of pharmaceutical company Pfizer's patent, Médecins Sans Frontières establishes the country's first ARV treatment programme at a primary healthcare clinic in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha. (Fluconazole is often used to treat opportunistic infections such as thrush and cryptococcal meningitis);
2002 – South Africa’s Constitutional Court rules in favour of the TAC, forcing the government to provide the ARV nevirapine to pregnant, HIV-positive mothers to prevent their unborn babies from contracting the virus. Later that year, Hazel Tau lodges a complaint regarding high ARV prices with the national regulatory body, the Competition Commission. She wins this complaint a year later;
2003 – The TAC launches its civil disobedience campaign. Later that year, 21-year-old TAC member Lorna Mlofana is murdered after revealing her HIV-positive status. The man convicted of her murder served a few years in prison before being released;
2004 – Government begins the slow roll-out of ARV treatment;
2006 – The TAC wins a court case that establishes the right of prisoners to treatment. As of July 2011, about 9 percent of the country's jails have ARV clinics on site;
2008 – Government releases new PMTCT guidelines for administering more effective dual therapy instead of single ARV treatment;
Mbeki is recalled from the presidency by the ruling African National Congress and Tshabalala-Msimang is replaced. Later that year, a moratorium on ARV treatment in South Africa’s Free State province commences due to financial mismanagement. The TAC launches protests at a local hospital in the province and parliament;
November 2008 - TAC reveals it is experiencing a financial crisis that would force it to retrench 20 percent of its staff and cut back its treatment literacy programme;
2009 – Jacob Zuma, the new President, signals an end to denialism and announces improved treatment guidelines, long lobbied for by the TAC and partners;
2010 – South Africa has the biggest treatment programme in the world targeting at least one million people.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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