Media advisory: AIDS activists gather to start new treatment access movement

At the XIV AIDS Conference this year, the World Health Organisation announced their goal to ensure antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for at least three million people by 2005. At that time, a group of African AIDS activists and non-governmental organisations decided to convene a meeting in the coming months to launch a Pan-African HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Movement.
When: 22-24 August 2002 Where: Cape Town, South Africa What: Pan-African HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Meeting Contact TAC: Sipho Mthathi (Treatment Action Campaign) 27 72 424 7180 (mobile) Contact MSF: Rachel M. Cohen (Médecins Sans Frontières) 27 84 335 3073 (mobile) Several recent events have converged to create an ideal platform for the emergence of a Pan-African movement of HIV/AIDS treatment activists. Occurring simultaneously in early July was the launch of the African Union (the successor to the Organisation of African Unity), which presents an unparalleled opportunity for inter-country support, communication and sharing of strategies among African civil society organisations, and the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. In Barcelona, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced their goal to ensure antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for at least three million people by 2005. At that time, a group of African AIDS activists and non-governmental organisations decided to convene a meeting in the coming months to launch a Pan-African HIV/AIDS Treatment Access Movement, in part to define the contributions of African civil society organisations - in particular people with HIV/AIDS in Africa - in the fight to achieve this goal. This meeting will now take place in Cape Town, South Africa, August 22-24, 2002, just prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Approximately 70 delegates from over 20 African countries — including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — are expected to attend. A message from the delegates will then be sent to the Johannesburg Summit to ensure that AIDS treatment is not neglected in discussions about health and development in Africa. The goal of the meeting in Cape Town is to;
  • define a framework for the Pan-African movement;
  • allow activists to share information and advocacy strategies with one another;
  • and create a unified African voice for treatment access that can be directed toward national governments, inter-governmental institutions such as WHO, UNAIDS, and the World Trade Organisation, and international initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Convening organisations include: AIDS Consortium (South Africa); AIDS Law Project (ALP) - South Africa; AIDS Law Unit: Legal Assistance Centre - Namibia; Catholic AIDS Action - Namibia; Coping Centre for People with AIDS (COCEPWA) - Botswana; Kara Trust - Zambia; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS (NZPL ) - Zambia; Network of Zimbabwean Positive Women - Zimbabwe; Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) - South Africa; and Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN) - Zimbabwe. Delegates available to speak to the media: Zackie Achmat, Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa), is the Chairperson of TAC and one of Africa's most powerful advocates for access to AIDS treatment. His refusal to take ARVs until they are available in the public sector in South Africa has recently prompted Nelson Mandela to intervene, conveying Zackie's demands to the government. Milly Katana, Health Rights Action Group (Uganda), is the Lobbying and Advocacy Officer for HRAG, a woman living with HIV/AIDS, and a member of the Board of the Global Fund. She is one of Africa's leading women advocates for access to AIDS treatment. Winston Zulu, Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS (Zambia), was the first person in Zambia to openly disclose his HIV status. For a short period, he denied the causal link between HIV and AIDS, participated in South African President Thabo Mbeki's Presidential Panel, and stopped taking treatment. After becoming seriously ill, he became a strong advocate for access to ARVs. Teresa Kabale-Omari, Femme Plus (Democratic Republic of Congo), is a woman living with HIV/AIDS and one of DRC's leading advocates for the rights of women living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Eric Goemaere, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is the Head of Mission for the MSF operations in South Africa. He directs MSF's AIDS programmes in Khayelitsha, including the pilot ARV treatment programme , which is currently providing ARVs as part of a comprehensive approach to AIDS care for nearly 200 people with HIV/AIDS.