The Treatment Action Campaign accused politicians for turning their backs on HIV and TB at its 6th National Congress last week
The congress brought together representatives from almost 200 branches at a time when “funding for HIV and TB around the world is woefully insufficient and getting worse”, according to TAC.
“Public Healthcare systems that are supposed to bring an end to these epidemics are often dysfunctional. HIV and TB remains the world’s top two infectious disease killers – yet politicians and people all over the world seems to have turned their backs on these struggles mistakenly thinking AIDS is over,” according to the organisation.
It claims that while AIDS denialism may be over, there is a new denialism: “Denialism about our social crisis – and the determinants of risk of HIV infection and death due to AIDS and TB has replaced it”.
“Corruption and greed means many parts of the public healthcare system are dysfunctional, mismanaged and plagued by maladministration. Why are the thieves and crooked politicians that TAC has exposed still in government and not in prison?
“TAC members and people in mostly poor communities where we work bear the brunt of this in the form of long queues, medicines stockouts, poor TB infection control at health facilities, a lack of proper treatment for mental health and the increasing shortage of healthcare workers. Money meant to build health systems for our poor are instead going into the pockets of shady tenderpreneurs and those close to corrupt power.
“As TAC, we have fought these issues for years. Yet the crisis in our public healthcare system is getting worse.”
The organisation passed a number of resolutions and made the following calls at the conclusion of its congress on Friday (25 August):
Step up, Ramaphosa
TAC welcomed the presence of Deputy President and Chair of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Cyril Ramaphosa at our congress. We appreciated his recognition of the important role TAC has played in the struggle for ARVs and for the dignity of all who live and work in South Africa. However, TAC told the Deputy President that we are not satisfied with our countries’ response to HIV. We urged the Deputy President to rebuild political commitment to treating HIV and TB with the full urgency it deserves. We expect the Deputy President to show greater leadership and make HIV and TB a top priority in government. We expect him to deal with concerns regarding the governance of SANAC with urgency and transparency. His actions on AIDS and TB are a critical test of his ability to govern.
More Action, Less Talk Minister Motsoaledi
TAC welcomed the presentation on National Health Insurance made to the congress by Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. While we appreciate the Minister’s commitment to the implementation of NHI, we are concerned that civil society has been excluded from all but one of the seven NHI committees, the composition of which was recently published in the Government Gazette. We are also concerned that government may be retreating from the idea of a single-payer NHI system in favour of a multi-payer system.
TAC also welcomes the Minister’s restatement of the critical importance of community healthcare workers to the public healthcare system and to the provision of primary care. However, while the Minister’s words are welcome, we are concerned that there has been no progress on this issue over the last decade. We will judge the Minister’s commitment in this regard by his actions and not his words. In line with a recommendation from UNAIDS, TAC has resolved that South Africa must employ at least 200 000 CHWs.
Quality Healthcare services are our right
This historic TAC National Congress resolved to make bringing an end to the crisis in our public healthcare system our top priority over the next three years – through campaigns such as our “Clinics in Crisis” campaign.
To do this we will refocus on empowering our branches and building local-level activism to create accountability at healthcare facilities across the country. We will redouble our efforts at training ourselves and members of our communities on our constitutional rights and on the science and treatment of HIV and TB. We will continue to campaign based on the best available evidence and guided by our commitment to human dignity and the rights enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa.
The battle for quality healthcare for all is at a crucial stage. The second phase of TAC’s struggle is for quality healthcare delivered through a well-functioning healthcare system where the dignity of all is respected and nobody is excluded.
In this context the congress expressed alarm at the deepening of the inequality between private healthcare and public healthcare in South Africa. It is immoral and deeply unjust that babies die at public sector hospitals, that people die in queues and cannot access basic healthcare services while often, across the street, a private sector facility has excess capacity.
This is why TAC is committed to the building of a unified healthcare system that can provide quality care to all who live and work in South Africa. We will campaign for National Health Insurance to be such a system. As part of this work, TAC has resolved to assist patients who cannot access appropriate treatment in the public sector to seek those services in the private sector. We will do this in a disciplined, non-disruptive and dignified way while never compromising on the Constitutional right all people have to healthcare and dignity.
Pandemic of violence
TAC will be at the forefront of campaigning and speaking out on the pandemic of violence against especially girls, women and the LGBTQIA+ community. We will speak out in the communities we work in, but also on each and every platform TAC accesses.
The congress recognised that while TAC and our allies have won important battles in the struggle for AIDS treatment, we have not won the war.
In 2017, the HIV and TB epidemics are far from over in South Africa and in many other countries. To bring an end to these epidemics we will require more healthcare workers and properly functioning healthcare systems. We will require a movement that politicises access to healthcare and that refuses to accept that some people can get quality treatment while others cannot.
TAC is back. We will keep fighting for dignity for all people irrespective of income, gender, race, nationality, or ability. We urge comrades from across South Africa and the world to join us in this struggle.
The following people were elected this week as TAC’s national leadership for the next three years:
Chairperson – Sibongile Tshabalala
Deputy Chairperson – Patrick Mdletshe
General Secretary – Anele Yawa
Deputy General Secretary – Vuyokazi Gonyela
PLHIV Sector Representative – Andrew Mosane
Women’s Sector Representative – Thandi Maloka
LGBTQIA+ Sector Representative – Philemon Twala
Youth Sector Representative – Amelia Mfiki
Men’s Sector Representative – Pule Goqo