TAC stand firm on UNGASS
The Treatment Action Campaign will reject government’s invitation to participate in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS (UNGASS) at the end of May unless its ally, the Aids Law Project is also invited.
TAC General Secretary Sipho Mthathi confirmed that a delegation from the TAC and ALP had met with Thami Mseleku, the director general of health in an effort to find a solution, after government objected to the TAC and the ALP being accredited for UNGASS.
After the meeting, Mthathi learnt via the media that she had been included in Government’s 14-person civil society delegation, but that she had been invited in her personal capacity.
The TAC and ALP were two of only six organisations excluded following deliberate intervention of UN country members. The only other governments that intervened to exclude civil society organisations were Namibia and Belarus.
‘By objecting to the TAC and ALP accreditation, our government acted unilaterally and intolerably,’ the TAC said in a statement.
Mthathi said they had received information that the international outcry had led to President Thabo Mbeki directing the health department to reinstate the TAC, but this could not be confirmed.
The TAC also objected to the fact that it was not asked to nominate a representative, and said it was unclear whether there were any conditions associated with being a member of the country delegation. In addition, there are no people openly living with HIV or Aids in the delegation.
However, Mthathi said they would seriously consider the invitation to join the Government delegation if it came with no conditions and if the ALP was included. ‘We are not doing this just to fight,’ said Mthathi.
The ALP’s Fatima Hassan pointed out that her organization was the only specialist HIV/Aids and law organization in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘(Government’s) fear is that we will provide a critical assessment of government’s response (to the epidemic)’, said Hassan.
Both Mthathi and Hassan indicated that their organisations would be participating fully in the UNGASS meeting even if they are not part of the South African delegation as both organisations have been invited to join international delegations.
TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat said UNGASS was about speaking the truth. ‘Nobody in this government speaks the truth about Aids. We will go to UNGASS to speak the truth,’ he said.
Achmat threatened that going to court was an option, but that he hoped it would not be necessary.
‘This is what we want government to say (at UNGASS): ‘There is a crisis of illness. There is a crisis of death. There is a crisis of new infections’.’
At the time of going to press the TAC and ALP were awaiting further information from the department via its spokesperson Charity Bhengu.
* In a new development, the Cape Times reports that the Department of Health will not be inviting the ALP to the be part of the delegation.