Microbicides 2006: Treatment Action campaign marches for HIV prevention

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Thousands of members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), joined by dignitaries such as the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, marched to the Cape Town International Conference Centre on Sunday before the opening of the Microbicides 2006 conference to present a memorandum on prevention. The memorandum calls for greater political leadership from government, corporate commitment and civil society, and for community-driven prevention programmes setting clear targets both in South Africa and internationally. Specifically, TAC calls for a government commitment to prevent two million HIV infections by 2010.

The memorandum listed separate demands for the UN, the business and the South African government.

To South African business

  • There was a call for ensuring access to HIV prevention and treatment programmes in every workplace within one year
  • Direct investment by business in HIV prevention and treatment campaigns, including the establishment of a dedicated fund that will aim to raise at least 1 billion rand each year
  • The speedy dismantling of the hostel system so that mineworkers can live with their families

To the UN:

TAC called for a new declaration of commitment of universal access to prevention, treatment and care services and human rights by 2010 to come out of the upcoming UN General Assembly.

Glossary

consent

A patient’s agreement to take a test or a treatment. In medical ethics, an adult who has mental capacity always has the right to refuse. See also ‘capacity’ and ‘informed consent’.

In addition, TAC called for

  • Prevention targets to be set in and met by all countries.
  • Predictable and sustainable funding for both HIV prevention and treatment programmes to be provided by all national governments
  • Industrialised countries must ensure that the Global Fund is adequately funded and unreasonable restrictions on the use of donor funds must be removed.
  • Programming based on evidence and respect for human rights:
  • Unequivocal support for and resources to ensure the implementation of prevention interventions that have been proven to work, such as needle-exchange programmes for injecting drug users and consistent and correct condom use
  • Encouraging and providing resources for developing countries to move beyond the single-dose nevirapine regimen to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV

To the delegates at the microbicide meeting:

Announcing support for the mission of the Microbicides meeting, the memorandum called for “greater investment by international institutions and the pharmaceutical industry in research into and the development of microbicides; and commitment to making microbicides widely available and affordable if and when they are developed, particularly for people in developing countries and poor people everywhere.”

Broad support for TAC’s platform

Without any government representatives present at the opening of the Microbicides meeting, several speakers spoke in support of TAC’s demands.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who gave the opening welcome to the conference, made the treatment advocate Zachie Achmat stand up saying “may I also pay a very special tribute to you who are activists, all of you in TAC, all of you!”

And Mrs. Graça Machel, President of the Foundation for Community Development and current wife of Nelson Mandela began her opening address saying “There has been a demonstration at the start of this meeting by TAC. I would just like to acknowledge and say that I couldn’t agree more with the content of the petition they presented to the organisers of this conference, and to say thanks to TAC for always being there — you are precious!”.

To the South African Government

TAC called on the government to urgently develop and implement a comprehensive, evidence and rights-based national HIV prevention plan to complement the antiretroviral ARV treatment plan. That plan must include:

  • Clear indicators, targets and timeframes, including a commitment to prevent at least two million new HIV infections in South Africa by the end of 2010
  • Evidence-based and scientifically accurate public messaging, that includes calls for people to get tested, treated and to use condoms consistently and correctly
  • Real leadership in the campaign against violence against women, including unequivocal support for the introduction of a basic income grant to increase the financial independence of women, and the widespread availability of post-exposure prophylaxis
  • Prevention programmes for those who are HIV positive as well as those who are negative
  • Introduction of better regimens for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and better monitoring of and reporting on the existing programme
  • Standardisation of HIV counselling, including safer sex counselling and condom distribution
  • Availability of condoms and life-skills programmes, including sex-education, in every school
  • Decriminalisation of sex-work and the unequal age of consent for lesbian and gay youth
  • Publicly funded and implemented HIV prevention programmes for sex workers, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and other stigmatised groups that may be particularly vulnerable to HIV infection
  • Fast-tracking the passage of the Criminal Laws (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill, with appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Transformation of the justice system so that its handling of rape survivors stops inhibiting women from reporting sexual violence through fear of secondary victimisation by the system. The current pattern of convictions rates must improve dramatically.
  • Introduce the routine offer of HIV testing at all clinics and hospitals where antiretroviral treatment is available