On the first day of December every year, the world commemorates World Aids Day. The day is an opportunity for reflection and activism about the devastating epidemic.
In a speech marking the occasion Dennis Bloem, leader of Cope, reminded listeners of Mandela’s message for World Aids Day in 1994. He believes it is as relevant and transformative today as it was then.
Read an article on the speech:
“The campaign against Aids is the task of all of us‚ young and old‚ government and community‚ organisations‚ religious and traditional institutions‚ and cultural and sporting bodies. Aids knows no customs and it knows no boundaries. We have to work together wherever we are to preserve our nation‚ our continent and humanity as a whole.”
Government has released an article explaining World Aids Day, appealing to South Africans to get on board with global HIV/Aids initiatives:
The UNAIDS World AIDS Day theme for 2011 to 2015 is: “Getting to Zero”. This year, South Africa will focus on ZERO DISCRIMINATION, without losing sight of the other ‘zeroes’: zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS related deaths. We call on all South Africans to join our Zero Stigma, Zero Discrimination campaign for World AIDS Day 2014.
The aim of this campaign is to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS are not violated, and that discrimination on the basis of HIV, AIDS and TB is reduced, and ultimately eliminated.
On behalf of Brothers for Life, Joe Public has shared a video that drives home the a striking message about the HIV/Aids:
The following books contain more information about the disease and diverse perspectives on both how it affects lives and how it can be combated:
Africa Uprising: Popular Protest and Political Change by Adam Branch and Zachariah Mampilly is the first book to put contemporary popular protest in a pan-African context.
Published by Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press, Africa Uprising is based on original research in Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi and looks at what is driving the new wave of protest across the continent.
Read an extract from Africa Uprising to learn more about the third wave of African protest:
* * * * * * * *
The third wave of African protest
From multiple directions, crowds converged on Burkina Faso’s National Assembly on 30 October 2014. For days, massive protests of tens or even hundreds of thousands had mounted against President Blaise Compaoré’s effort to push a constitutional amendment through parliament that would allow him a third term. Finally, frustrated at the lack of response from the government, thousands of protesters smashed their way into the parliament compound, setting ablaze vehicles and ransacking the building. Soon, flames flickered up the sides of the white-tiled structure as soldiers stood by and watched. Other government buildings were soon burning, and, despite the military’s attempt to put down the uprising, Compaoré had no choice but to announce his resignation on the following day.
A new wave of protest is sweeping across Africa today. The multiparty regimes and neoliberal economies that emerged from the upheavals of the late 1980s and early 1990s have proved unable to meet popular aspirations for fundamental change. Starting in the late 2000s, what we identify as the third wave of African protest has posed dramatic challenges to the established order in over forty countries across the continent. This chapter introduces this ongoing third protest wave and sets the stage for the case studies that follow – Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sudan – which together provide an illustrative sample of the diversity of contemporary African protests. Indeed, Burkina Faso’s uprising, occurring just as this book is going to press, has led to the resignation of its president and to an ongoing transitional period. The Burkinabé uprising, in which political society was once again at the forefront, is a powerful reminder that this third wave of African protest retains its strength and will continue as long as the conditions giving rise to it are not resolved.
Political society in the global economy
The precarious livelihoods of urban political society is one of those unresolved conditions, and today’s protest wave represents a vehement rejection of the neoliberal economy by Africa’s poor. The structural adjustment programmes and integration into the global economy demanded by the Washington Consensus and imposed by donors throughout the 1990s and 2000s largely failed to improve living conditions for the majority of Africans. Even where GDP numbers did rise, they were often paired with increasing poverty. As Bibangambah summarizes, ‘on the one hand there is impressive economic performance and on the other there is deepening abject poverty, human deprivation, vulnerability and inadequate social services’ (2001: 128–9). The promised structural transformations in Africa’s economies have also failed to materialize. Instead of industrialization, deindustrialization has become the norm: today, industrial output in Africa represents a smaller share of GDP than it did in the 1970s (Stiglitz et al. 2013: 9). A flood of cheap manufactured products, primarily from China, has further undermined the possibility of meaningful industrialization. New investments in extractive industries, while occasionally driving impressive growth rates, have done little to reverse this trend and have maintained Africa as an exporter of raw materials. Africa’s much-heralded growth has thus predominantly been jobless, accompanied by rising inequality, unemployment, and underemployment.
Exacerbating the plight of the urban poor have been continued high rates of urbanization. Africa is home to more than a quarter of the world’s one hundred fastest-growing cities, with over fifty African cities already claiming more than a million people each. The majority of Africans, it is predicted, will live in urban areas by 2035, as will the majority of the continent’s poor (UN Habitat 2014: 23). Already, 40 per cent of Africa’s population is urban, higher than in India, undercutting the claim that Africa is too rural for urban protest to effect meaningful change (Ford 2012). Africa’s urbanization has been magnified further by rural displacement. Rather than being pulled into the cities by employment opportunities, Africa’s rural poor are being displaced from or dispossessed of their lands by governments seeking to make way for infrastructure projects or land grabs by foreign investors. Today’s rural ‘development’ thus often takes place at the expense of the rural poor and adds to the urban plight.
As has been the case since colonial-era urbanization, newcomers to the city are rarely able to establish secure livelihoods. Urbanization without industrialization means that formal employment is not an option for most, and so urban Africans turn to the long-standing informal or illicit sectors for survival. Housing evinces a similar pattern, as the population of squatter settlements and slums grows twice as fast as that of cities, and peri-urban areas expand rapidly as urban and rural spaces blend together (Davis 2006: 8–11). Adding to this volatile urban mix is Africa’s growing youth bulge. Over two-thirds of the continent’s population is under the age of twenty-four. This expanding youth population is faced with contracting opportunities, characterized as a condition of permanent ‘waithood’ (Honwana 2013). A growing political society of frustrated youth is a recipe for urban uprisings and other forms of possibly destructive political action, a reality not lost on African governments.
As international markets increasingly determine the cost of basic items, including food, needed by urban (and often rural) populations, African lives are at the mercy of price fluctuations made even more unpredictable by the hegemony of global finance capital. When those price swings threaten the survival of already precarious populations, it is no surprise that political society may rise up in protest, as was seen in the series of large-scale urban uprisings in Africa and elsewhere in the global south in 2007 and 2008 (Holt-Giménez and Patel 2009). To reduce these protests to ‘food riots’, however, is misleading. Neoliberalism has solidified the popular understanding of the state’s responsibility for economic deprivation, and so economic demands and political demands merge, as they did in previous bouts of protest. In one analyst’s words, ‘Although the demonstrations and riots were sometimes precipitated by food price rises, the protests usually included demands to reduce political repression, promote political reform and curtail the influence of international firms’ (Bush 2010: 122). African states, recognizing the political threat represented by these protests, tend to meet them with force: in Guinea, for example, more than two hundred protesters were killed in 2007. Despite brutal crackdowns, however, the protests of 2007 to 2008 would prove to be just the start of the wave that continues today.
The Empire Cafe in Muizenberg was filled to capacity at the launch of Joanne Hichens’ latest book, Sweet Paradise. The novel, the latest in the Rae Valentine PI series, had a special send-off as Robin Auld shared his music in memory of the author’s late husband, Robert Hichens.
“On 5 January, 2014, I handed the manuscript over to Tim Richman of Two Dogs, and five days later, Robert died. My book couldn’t happen at that stage. I couldn’t think of producing the book,” she said.
She recalled looking at photos taken while she was finishing the manuscript. “I was sitting in a tent, typing in the strange orange light. It was a special time, those last days with Robert,” she said. Various delays led to the bold step of self publishing. “Now, 22 months on, I am thrilled to be putting Sweet Paradise out under my own imprint,” she continued.
In the wake of her husband’s death, Hichens got a tattoo as a memorial garden. “After I’d scattered his ashes and they had floated out to sea, there was nowhere to go,” she said. When she decided to self-publish, she opted to call the imprint Tattoo Press. That’s when another layer of meaning entered the equation. Her wonderful designer, Adam Hill, had very different ideas. If you look at the book you’ll see it has nothing to do with ink but it’s a little person beating a drum,” she said.
The origins of the word are Dutch, relating to the sound of the drum used to call the troops back from the pub every day. “For a long time, watching other people’s tragedies on Sky News and my bottle of wine became my best friend! Part of me could connect with those tragedies, but at some point the sound of the tattoo called me back to the desk, back to work, back to the writing.
“Turning to fiction was a respite from my own life. I could go into Rae’s life and forget about my own. I loved writing the ‘baddies’,” Hichens said. Once the book was finally ready for publication she faced the option of waiting until 2016 or taking the bold step of publishing it herself. Spurred on by her friend, Ros Haden, she decided that this new venture would be a testimony to her survival.
The author thanked Tim Richman for his support and encouragement and announced that the next book to be published by Tattoo Press will be the Short Sharp Stories anthology, containing the winning stories from the “Die Laughing” contest.
Writer Karina Magdalena Szczurek was in attendance at the launch and wrote a touching testimony to Joanne Hichen’s courage. As the sun went down, the gentle sea breeze cooled the night air while guests danced and mingled, aware in no small measure that they had seen a phoenix rise from the ashes.
* * * * * * * *
Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:
* * * * *
Sweet Paradise will be distributed by Jacana Media
THE government funds antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for 3.1-million HIV-positive people at a cost of R40,000 per person a year in the largest and most ambitious ARV programme in the world. HIV, once the harbinger of death, is now just another chronic disease.
The extraordinary tale of how this was achieved is told in the book No Valley Without Shadows: MSF and the Fight for Affordable ARVs in SA, to be launched next week. It is the inside story of how courage, cunning and determination overcame the combined might of global corporate greed, government denialism and the conservatism of the medical establishment.
THE current state of affairs could be said to hang off a single courtesy phone call. In 1999, Dr Eric Goemaere, a long-serving Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) volunteer, came to SA hoping to prove that ARVs could safely be given outside of a first world hospital setting to poor HIV-positive expectant mothers so they wouldn’t infect their babies.
It almost didn’t happen. Goemaere’s first stop was at the office of Dr Nono Simelela, the national director of the HIV programme, who reluctantly broke the news that the health minister had blocked the public sector use of AZT to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
About to fly home to Belgium, defeated, Goemaere put in a last-minute courtesy call to an e-mail acquaintance, the activist Zackie Achmat, who had started the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) the year before.
Achmat revealed that a limited mother-to-child transmission pilot study was under way in Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town.
In partnership with the University of Cape Town, MSF set to work in Khayelitsha, systematising the pilot study to ensure it was sufficiently rigorous to convince an ambivalent medical community.
However, they soon became frustrated that, although they were able to save babies’ lives, they were unable to save their parents.
Dr Francoise Louis, a French doctor who hoped to share her skills, described it like this: “I witnessed the introduction of ARVs in France and what it meant to people. When I discovered the impossible levels of HIV in Southern Africa, I became obsessed.”
BUT without ARVs to prescribe, she felt useless. “How does a clinician feel if, whatever you do to care for your patient, he comes back sicker; the wretched headache does not go away; the excruciating diarrhoea does not stop? The situation was inhuman for them. It was inhuman for us, who knew that a treatment to keep them alive was available,” she said.
The struggle to save the lives of poor, powerless people at the tip of Africa might have gone unnoticed by the wider world if it had not played into a broader agenda then being implemented in the boardrooms of the first world.
In 1995, the World Trade Organisation started enforcing Trips, the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This compelled all member countries — including SA — to introduce 20-year patents on medicines. This meant that ARV treatment cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per person per year.
In an attempt to circumvent this, the government introduced the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997, which would allow the health minister to cancel patent rights or import generic medicines.
The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association, representing 39 companies, lodged a challenge. In a landmark case that became known as Big Pharma vs Nelson Mandela, the global drug industry made it quite clear that it would fight to the last to protect its profits, even it translated very tangibly and publicly into the loss of thousands of lives. The case dragged on for three years, with no end in sight.
Spotting the perfect opportunity to highlight the high cost of ARVs, TAC joined the case as amicus curiae (friends of the court), presenting a powerful dossier of evidence on the human impact of patent protection.
Together with MSF, they launched a highly successful international campaign called Drop The Case.
When it became clear how damaging this was to their image, the pharmaceutical companies withdrew their case.
MSF underwent seismic changes as a result of the struggle for affordable ARVs.
Its model had always been the provision of emergency medical intervention. Now, it was being asked to fund long-term treatment for possibly thousands of patients.
For the first time, an MSF board would be making a financial commitment that would extend beyond its own tenure and place an obligation on its successors.
INITIALLY, it agreed to fund 180 patients. This led to agonising decisions having to be made by doctors in Khayelitsha: who should be given life-saving treatment and who should be left to die? The pressure for universal, affordable ARV treatment intensified.
The drug companies were invited to the Khayelitsha clinic. Only one came. The chairman of Boehringer Ingelheim arrived while Goemaere was treating an emaciated nine-year-old orphan, who was slowly and painfully dying from AIDS. Deeply discomfited, he offered to pay for the boy’s treatment personally, but confessed that he did not have the power to change his company’s global policy on patent protection.
The response from another pharmaceutical company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, revealed a surprise. While it had the licence for the antiretroviral stavudine, the patent was owned by Yale University. A direct approach from MSF to Yale was stonewalled by the university, which was earning $40m a year from the stavudine licence in 1999.
The activists sprung into action. A couple of first-year Yale law students tracked down the inventor, Dr William Prusoff, who wrote a stirring letter to the New York Times reflecting on his position as a scientist contributing to the discovery of a life-saving medication and then witnessing how commercial interests were protected so stringently that those in need of it were denied help.
Yale caved in and Bristol-Myers Squibb announced “emergency patent relief” shortly afterwards.
A year after initiating the first patient on ARVs, the Khayelitsha team believed it had enough material to prove to the medical establishment that resource-poor clinics and nonspecialist staff could effectively deliver ARVs.
Several reputable journals turned them down, either for fear of offending the pharmaceutical companies or out of prejudice.
But when the findings were eventually published, they were explosive. After two years, 91% of patients were taking their medication as prescribed and had an undetectable viral load.
The struggle then entered a new phase — forcing the government to implement treatment for its citizens.
TAC played a critical part. The first really effective post-apartheid civil society organisation, it fought stigma, empowered the HIV-positive and shamed the government.
TAC set the bar for the vibrant civil society movement that exists in SA today.
• McGregor is co-author of No Valley without Shadows: MSF and the Fight for Affordable ARVs in South Africa. Published by MSF, it will be launched at the Book Lounge, Roeland Street, Cape Town, on November 30. All proceeds from the sale on the night will go to TAC
*This article first appeared in Business Day