Free State AIDS Council offices were allegedly raided following the release of the Stop the Stockouts report

Free State AIDS Council offices were allegedly raided following the release of the Stop the Stockouts report regarding HIV, TB drug shortages

Free State AIDS Council employee Sello Mohalipi has also been forced to leave Bloemfontein after receiving deaths threats following the release of a report by the civil society Stop the Stockouts coalition, said Heywood while addressing media at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA).

The report found that 54 percent of Free State health facilities had experienced shortages of antiretroviral (ARV) medicine.

Heywood said his organisation was still investigating who was behind this week’s raid on the AIDS council. Those who carried off the computers allegedly identified themselves as both the Hawks and security from the Health MEC’s office.

“They said they wanted to find out who is behind the leaks about problems in the health system,” Heywood told Health-e. “While we have a good relationship with national health officials trying to address medicine stock outs, there is fierce intolerance of independent organisations in some provinces.”

Heywood said the raid had been reported to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe via the South African National AIDS Council.

Meanwhile, African civil society organisations used International Human Rights Day to invoke the spirit of Nelson Mandela and demonstrate against the lack of human rights in many African countries.

Marching and picketing in and around the Cape Town International Convention Centre, an alliance of African organisations demanded that the continent ensure equal access to health care. They also asked for the repeal of laws that criminalise both sex work and same-sex relationships.

“Thirteen million people across Africa still don’t have access to the life-saving HIV medicines they need,” march organisers said in a statement. “Medicines stock-outs, corruption, mismanagement and a lack of political will to deal with these problems are undermining our struggle against HIV.”

Protestors demand fair patent laws as international trade negotiations near end

Activists also demanded that African countries reform their patent laws to guarantee access to affordable quality medicines, including newer ARVs available in wealthy countries. Protesters also criticised ongoing international trade talks that they said threaten the ability of Asian countries to produce generic medicines.

Countries like Australia, the United States and Malaysia are currently in the final negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to govern trade relationships between 12 countries. Health organisations such as the Medicines Sans Frontiers have accused US negotiators of pushing for stringent intellectual property protection that would negatively impact Asian countries ability to manufacture generic medicines.

The organisations reminded the conference of Nelson Mandela’s speech to the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok in 2004 when he said: “We share a common humanity with our brothers and sisters suffering in this epidemic. Ask yourself what you can do as global citizens against the fight against HIV. We must never forget our own responsibilities.”

“In life Mandela worked tirelessly for the rights of all,” said Treatment Action Campaign Provincial Secretary in Gauteng Andrew Mosane. “If he were still with us, I am sure he would be urging us to work tirelessly to secure the rights of people living with HIV.”

“That is how we celebrate his legacy,” he added. – Health-e News Service.

 Read more Health-e coverage of ICASA 2013