How the Free State ARV moratorium breached the Constitution
The government has violated the Constitution by imposing a moratorium on the roll-out of antiretroviral drugs, for new HIV/AIDS patients in the Free State, the AIDS Law Project recently told a civil society gathering in Bloemfontein.
‘The right to health care services is provided for, in three sections of the South African Constitution’, said Adila Hassim, head of Litigation and Legal Services at the AIDS Law Project (ALP).
‘The thing that is unique about South Africa’s constitution is that it doesn’t just say you have a right. It says the government, has duties to ensure, that your right, is actually realised’, she said.
At the meeting a number of representatives from different non-governmental organisations including faith based organisations, testified on the hardships resulting from the lengthy and controversial moratorium, which made it impossible for desperate AIDS patients to access life saving drugs.
‘It’s shocking that here in the Free State, because you are some way from Johannesburg and some way from Pretoria and some way from Cape Town, that you can have a moratorium on treatment, that lasted for three months and hardly anybody says anything about it. Under this constitution we’re all equal. We are not more equal if you are from Gauteng than if you are from the Free State’, said Mark Heywood, head of the AIDS Law Project.
The ALP’s Adila Hassim questioned the Free State government’s level of transparency. ‘Why were you not consulted before the moratorium was imposed’? ‘People’s needs must be responded to and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy making’, she said.
The implications of the ARV moratorium in the Free State have been devastating. The Southern African HIV/AIDS Clinicians’ Society estimates that 30 people a day have died while on the waiting list.
Asked whether the AIDS Law Project will file a lawsuit against government, Hassim said, ‘we are here to offer our services in whatever way we can’.
‘We don’t believe that litigation is the first step’, she added.
Representatives of the AIDS Law Project attended the meeting to explain to civil society organisations in the Free State their rights as stipulated in the constitution.