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South Africa Faces “Grave Constitutional Crisis;” Minister of Health Continues Breaking the Law

In Children and Youth, Culture of Corruption, Disaster Relief, Economic Justice, HIV/SIDA, Housing, Immigration, International politics, International Public Health, International Trade, Labor, Laws & Regulation, Misc., New York City, Race, Sexuality, The War On Drugs on August 30, 2006 at 6:40 pm

[Lucio Verani is a volunteer for Friends of TAC-North America and works as an administrative assistant at The Rockefeller University. Previously, Lucio volunteered for TAC in South Africa, interned with the Atlanta Harm Reduction Center and worked for the National School of Public Health in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He can be contacted at lucio_verani@yahoo.com.]

Two developments this week have highlighted the serious incompetence of the South African government’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

First, the South African government is illegally withholding AIDS treatment from its prisoners. The South African Constitution states that healthcare is a right, and based on this, the South African government was ordered on June 26th, to implement emergency treatment programs in Durban’s Westville Prison. The government then appealed this judgment, but the judge, agreeing with the Treatment Action Campaign(TAC) and the AIDS Law Project, handed an interim-order (valid until the government’s original appeal could be ruled upon), which forced government to begin implementing an emergency treatment plan by August 14. The government then illegally appealed this interim-order, and on Monday, August 28th, the courts once again ruled against the government, saying:

If the refusal to comply does not result from instruction from the first respondent, the Government of the Republic of South Africa, then the remaining respondents must be disciplined, either administratively or in an employment context, for their delinquency. If the Government of the Republic of South Africa has given such an instruction then we face a grave constitutional crisis involving a serious threat to the doctrine of the separation of powers. Should that continue the members of the judiciary will have to consider whether their oath of office requires them to continue on the bench.”

Secondly, on Tuesday, August 29th, South Africa’s Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala Msimang (commonly known as Manto), was condemned by the South African Medical Association for making illegal and unscientific pronouncements. Manto is a lunatic that deserves to be fired. She is equivocating on the supposed “issue” of proper nutrition versus access to timely HIV medications. Manto highlights the side-effects of antiretrovirals (for treating AIDS), talks about the benefits of nutrition and then says it is each person’s democratic right to choose if they will maintain a healthy diet or try to get on antiretrovirals. Recently, US Senator Barack Obama met with members of TAC in the Khayeltisha township of Cape Town and afterwards declared that “[O]n the treatment side the information being provided by the minister of health is not accurate… It is not an issue of Western science versus African science, it is just science and it’s not right [what Manto is doing].” In addition to offering her poorly informed sisters and brothers this “false-choice” between proper nutrition and HIV treatment, the Minister has refused to distance herself from HIV/AIDS denialists and people who sell multivitamins or traditional remedies as cures for AIDS.

TAC recently held an international Day of Action calling for the Health Minister to be fired and for prisoners to receive treatment. TAC’s explanation of their demands can be found here. The document provides a brief overview of why Minister Manto must be fired and then tried in court for the culpable homicide of one of the Westville prisoners, who died after receiving treatment far too late. According to TAC and the AIDS Law Project, at least four of the 14 remaining plaintiffs in prison are in critical condition, and their lawyers have been denied access to them for the past two weeks. Please e-mail, news-subscribe@tac.org.za in order to sign-up for the TAC Newsletter, the source of most of this information. This newsletter will help you support the most credible HIV/AIDS advocacy organization in the world. Until South Africa’s politicians take the lead on this issue, it will be up to international civil society to support South African civil society in leading the way. Your help is desperately needed.

Finally, I would like people to read the below chart on HIV treatment rates in Africa and the accompanying explanation. This conclusively shows that the South African government is lying when they claim to run the world’s most comprehensive AIDS program.

Country

UNAIDS/WHO estimates

People receiving
treatment in
December 2005

People needing
treatment in 2005

Treatment coverage

Under 25% coverage: RED

Under 50% coverage: YELLOW

Above 50% coverage: GREEN

 

 

 

Algeria

<500

1,000

39%

Angola

2,500-3,500

52,000

6%

Benin

3,500-6,000

14,000

33%

Botswana

67,000-77,000

84,000

85%

Burkina Faso

9,000

34,000

24%

Burundi

6,000-7,000

46,000

14%

Cameroon

21,000-26,000

108,000

22%

Cape Verde

<500

Central African Republic

1,500-2,000

49,000

3%

Chad

5,000-8,000

38,000

17%

Congo

2,000-3,500

18,000

17%

Côte d’Ivoire

18,000-19,000

111,000

17%

Democratic Republic
of the Congo

7,000-8,500

209,000

4%

Djibouti

<500

2,000

16%

Egypt

<500

2,000

12%

Equatorial Guinea

<200

4,200

0%

Eritrea

<1,000

11,000

5%

Ethiopia

19,000-22,000

278,000

7%

Gabon

2,000-2,500

8,650

23%

Gambia

<200

1,500

10%

Ghana

4,000-5,000

61,000

7%

Guinea

2,000-2,500

23,000

9%

Guinea Bissau

<200

4,800

1%

Kenya

60,000-72,000

273,000

24%

Lesotho

7,500-9,000

58,000

14%

Liberia

<500

15,000

3%

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

<1,000

1,500

35%

Madagascar

<200

20,000

0%

Malawi

31,000-35,000

169,000

20%

Mali

5,500-9,000

22,000

32%

Mauritania

<500

1,500

40%

Mauritius

<200

Morocco

<1,000

2,000

48%

Mozambique

19,000-21,000

216,000

9%

Namibia

27,000-31,000

41,000

71%

Niger

<1,000

12,000

5%

Nigeria

37,000-45,000

636,000

7%

Rwanda

18,000-20,000

49,000

39%

Sao Tome and Principe

<200

Senegal

3,000-5,500

9,000

47%

Seychelles

<200

Sierra Leone

<500

9,600

2%

Somalia

6,000

1%

South Africa

178,000-235,000

983,000

21%

Sudan

<500

62,000

1%

Swaziland

12,000-14,000

42,000

31%

Togo

5,000-8,000

25,000

27%

Tunisia

<500

<1,000

34%

Uganda

71,000-79,000

148,000

51%

United Republic of Tanzania

20,000-23,000

315,000

7%

Zambia

45,000-52,000

183,000

27%

Zimbabwe

22,000-27,000

321,000

8%

“[Gregg Gonsalves from the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa used UNAIDS/WHO statistics to code] countries with greater than 50% coverage in GREEN (i.e. Namibia, Botswana and Uganda); countries with less than 50% (but more than 25%) coverage in YELLOW (i.e. Algeria, Benin, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland, Togo, Tunisia, and Zambia) and those with less than 25% coverage in RED (i.e. South Africa and all the rest).  So when the Health Minister of South Africa says her country is treating more people than any other country in the region, she is correct in terms of absolute numbers, but South Africa is not out of the RED yet-it is behind all the countries in YELLOW AND GREEN and even within those countries with less than 25% coverage, still Kenya, Gabon, Cameroon, Burkina Faso are ahead of South Africa!  That means 19 countries in the region are doing better than South Africa in terms of the percentage of people on ART who are in need of it. Finally, South Africa has the greatest absolute number of people in need of treatment (i.e. 983,000 people), dwarfing any other countries' number waiting for treatment with the closest rival being Nigeria with 636,000 people still in need of ART.” –posted by Gregg on the Health GAP list-serve, August 26, 2006.
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  1. Keep in mind that the South African government does not accept the HIV=AIDS hypothesis.

  2. The government does officially accept that HIV causes AIDS. They did so on April 17 2002….
    when the Cabinet said “In conducting this campaign, government’s starting point is based on the premise that HIV causes AIDS.”
    http://www.tac.org.za/newsletter/2002/ns18_04_2002.txt

    The government still refused to implement a prevention of mother-to-child-transmission program, after the Cabinet Statement. It was in June/July of 2002 that the courts ruled in TAC’s favor and forced gov’t to implement PMTCT. PMTCT programs are still terrible in rural areas, and as Stephen Lewis has pointed out, transmission rates can be brought close to zero% by giving the mothers full HAART rather than simple courses of nevirapine and/or zidovudine…

    And AIDS denialists still seem to carry weight within government… Matthias Rath, the vitamin charlatan, is a perfect example…

  3. UPDATE:

    http://allafrica.com/stories/200608300413.html
    “Correctional Services Welcomes Court’s ARV Ruling”

    sure they do…

    viva TAC viva

    Note that by the end of March 2006 less than 135,000 people were on the gov’t treatment program. The goal was 200,000 by beginning of 2006, and now there are no future goals… targets now!

  4. Saying that they are conducting a campaign on the premise that HIV causes AIDS does not mean they accept that premise. It only means they bowed to pressure to act upon the premise even if it might be wrong.

    Personally I believe that the best medicine for AIDS is cannabis, and it can make it a lot more possible for people to tolerate the AIDS-specific drugs.

  5. whoops.

    i wasn’t thinking straight…

    the cabinet statement in april 02 aknowledging hiv causes aids was two weeks after the courts ruled that govt had to implement PMTCT programs…

    nelson mandela visited tac in june/july of 02 and wore an hiv positive t-shirt. that was also a big moment.

    my bad

  6. Hi,
    why there are a lot of spam?
    Where is admin?

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