A South African AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), will elect a new leadership at its national congress in Durban this weekend, ahead of the start a four-day AIDS symposium.
A South African AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), will elect a new leadership at its national congress in Durban this weekend, ahead of the start a four-day AIDS symposium.The TAC, which won a court case against the government forcing it to make AIDS drugs available to pregnant mothers, will meet in Durban Saturday and Sunday, national secretary Rukia Cornelius said.”The program is really full, topics on the agenda include the civil disobedience campaign [launched to pressurise the government into a national treatment plan] and the election of a new secretariat and national executive committee,” Ms Cornelius said. The current TAC chairman, Zackie Achmat, is a formidable HIV-positive activist who is refusing to take anti-AIDS drugs until the government announces a national treatment plan despite reports that his health is rapidly deteriorating. The TAC congress ends on Sunday local time before the opening of a four-day South African AIDS Conference 2003, sponsored by local campaigners and business leaders, in Durban in the evening. International AIDS experts will attend the symposium which will bring together science and the community “to get a broader African perspective”, a statement released by the organisers said. The events take place amidst a threat by the government to ban the antiretroviral drug nevirapine for use in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV despite the fact that it is approved by United Nations agencies. South Africa’s Medicines Control Council has announced it was considering banning the drug because it believed the paperwork in a key Ugandan study to be defective. The TAC is consulting its lawyers about the latest development, since the lobby group won a High Court order 16 months ago, forcing the government to make antiretroviral AIDS drugs available to pregnant mothers. Ms Cornelius said the threat to ban the drug was not officially on the congress agenda, but it might come under discussion. “It won’t be an agenda item, but I know they are talking about raising it. Congress will probably ask the new national executive to make a resolution about it which will be announced to the press on Monday,” she said. South Africa has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world with 360,000 deaths in 2001, an average of 986 per day.(Source: ABC, Sunday, August 3, 2003. 10:30am (AEST))