Representing a coalition of African HIV and tuberculosis activists, Paula Akugizibwe of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa spelt out their list of demands which includes a challenge to the region’s leaders to guarantee the right to health, ensure that it is financed as a priority, and mobilise the additional resources needed to secure universal access to TB/HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Activists gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre yesterday (WED) where they unveiled a giant, inflatable eyeball, as a symbol of their intention to keep an eye on proceedings at the WEF and remind leaders to fund the fight against HIV and TB.
Akugizibwe pointed out that the current health crisis facing Sub-Saharan Africa had been present long before the global economic meltdown. ‘The economic downturn is merely the final catalyst for disaster,’ she said.
Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes South Africa, has 22% of the global disease burden and 68% of the world’s HIV positive people, but only 1% of the global expenditure on health and 2% of the global workforce.
Only one in three of the HIV-positive people who need antiretroviral therapy to survive have access to treatment in Africa while 900 babies are born with HIV every day in the developing world because their mothers did not have access to treatment for prevention of mother to child transmission.
Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) revealed that more than 60 000 people were currently on waiting lists for ARVs in KwaZulu-Natal alone while the list in the Eastern Cape stood at more than 15 000 people.
Akugizibwe stressed that there was a critical need for health funding to be prioritized and protected. ‘With stock outs and failure to treat people and prevent disease, governments are simply generating additional costs down the line,’ she said.
The TAC is rolling out a Resources for Health Campaign which aims to eradicate waiting lists for HIV treatment, ensure that both prescribed drugs are made available for the prevention of mother to child transmission and the integration of HIV and TB treatment is radically improved.
Activists will be joining trade union Cosatu in the lunchtime picket outside the WEF today (THURS).