SOUTH AFRICA: Twelve years of the TAC fight

Photo: TAC
Fighting for treatment
JOHANNESBURG, 4 October 2011 (PlusNews) - A new book looks back on more than a decade of the life of South African lobby group, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), whose brand of activism came to define the world’s fight for HIV treatment and care.

Fighting for our Lives: The history of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC, October 2010) begins in the dark days of AIDS denialism, moves through the elation of court victories that belatedly ushered in treatment, before settling on the battles ahead – new campaigns that address corrective rape and xenophobia.

For those looking for the juicy back-stories of how treatment was won in South Africa, this is not the book. A better bet might be Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action Campaign (2010), by TAC treasurer, Nathan Geffen. 

Fighting for Our Lives is a lighter read. The TAC's monumental "break-up" with the country's National Association of People Living with AIDS (NAPWA) after allegations of corruption in NAPWA is reduced to a paragraph; the court case that pitted TAC against the former health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, is a half-page. The book is a history painted with broad brushstrokes in some ways, but in some other important ways it is a reminder of the parts of the TAC’s history that may have been forgotten since 1998.

Early in the African HIV response, national associations of people living with AIDS sprang up throughout the continent. In many countries, these - if but for a short time - became the prominent national HIV lobby group. South Africa's NAPWA is now largely defunct and neighbouring bodies have been wracked with similar corruption allegations.

In 2003, an estimated 600 South Africans were dying each day from AIDS-related illnesses and TAC members were not exempt. Fighting for Our Lives reminds us of all those who did not make it: Edward Mabunda - a poet and TAC leader; Sarah Hlalele - who was denied prevention of transmission services during her son's birth and whose story formed part of the TAC's case before the Constitutional Court; and Christopher Moraka, who spoke before parliament about the high cost of the drug fluconazole, before he died partly due to an infection the drug could have treated.

Although the book's powerful narrative peters out towards the end with scant discussions about the development of the TAC choir and other media initiatives, its strength is the almost omnipresent and strong link made between milestones and lives - what each decision and protest meant to those living with HIV, their families, their country and ultimately the world's fight for HIV treatment.


Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), Prevention - PlusNews, PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews, Stigma/Human Rights/Law - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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