June #92 : The TAC Offensive - by Liz McGregor

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June 2003

The TAC Offensive

by Liz McGregor

On South Africa’s Human Rights Day—honoring thousands of blacks arrested in non-violent apartheid protests on March 21, 1960—the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) began its own civil-disobedience crusade. Demanding a government plan to give free antiretrovirals to HIVers, TAC invaded police stations nation-wide to bring charges against African National Congress (ANC) ministers Manto Tshabalala- Msimang and Alec Erwin for homicide. “Six hundred people are dying of AIDS every day,” said TAC leader Zackie Achmat, an HIVer who has refused meds until all can get them. “The government has failed to do something, so now we will put [it] on trial.” Basic HAART costs $100 a month, but high unemployment and poverty keep most HIVers untreated.

South Africa’s cabinet announced, “Government continues to address barriers to [HAART] —high drug prices, weaknesses in health infrastructure and treatment compliance.” And the ANC’s Cameron Dugmore labeled TAC’s tactics “bully-boy.” Anti-apartheid veteran and ANC supporter Achmat said the conflict pains him. “But I can’t give up,” he said. “People are dying.”




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