[Ip-health] Daily Maverick Op-Ed: Academics for TAC

Lotti Rutter lotti.rutter at mail.tac.org.za
Thu Nov 13 22:58:21 PST 2014


Op-Ed: Academics for TAC

South Africans have many people to thank for their scaled-up ability to
access free antiretroviral treatment. Foremost among them is the Treatment
Action Campaign, which has fought tirelessly for over a decade and a half
to ensure that HIV-positive people in poor countries receive the same
standard of treatment and care as those in the developed world. By

For legal academics who want to support social movements pursuing
rights-based global health justice and a scaled-up up response to the
global HIV/Aids pandemic, there has been no organisation more instrumental
to those goals than the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). From organising
the march for universal access to treatment at the 2000 International Aids
Conference in Durban, to the 2000-2001 resistance to drug companies'
attacks on South Africa's Medicines and Related Substances Control Act
designed to ease access to more affordable medicines, to successful
litigation in the Constitutional Court demanding that the denialist
government expand its prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission programme,
to the Competition Commission cases seeking lower prices on medicines and
generic licences, and to demands that the government roll out a
comprehensive strategy for treating and preventing HIV, TAC has made
demands on powerful industries and a reluctant government to ensure that
South Africa deploys all available tools to address the HIV/Aids crisis
that threatened its post-apartheid transformation.

We have been fortunate to have been involved with TAC in some of its
campaigns, including the birth of its current, bold Fix the Patent Laws
campaign that we helped to support in an IP and Access to Medicines course
we have taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. We have watched it grow
locally and connect regionally and internationally with other Aids activist
organisations to weave a web of global actors campaigning for donor
commitments and fully-capacitated national responses to an HIV/Aids crisis
ignored in the 1990s while the viral plague multiplied, needlessly
infecting and killing millions of Africans. In the 2000s we watched TAC
wage strategic battles in court, in Parliament, and before administrative
agencies at the same time that it empowered grassroots activities and
communities through treatment literacy and co-ordinated campaigns for
quality service provision.

Far from being a merely populist organisation, a hallmark of the work that
TAC has been doing is its rigorous and evidence-based approach to the
challenges presented by the HIV/Aids pandemic.

TAC alerted a global movement to the rapacious profiteering of
multinational pharmaceutical companies that would rather make excessive
profits off high-price sales to the rich than deliver life-saving
antiretroviral medicines to the poor. It pointed attention at the malign
influence of the US and European governments attempts to extend
pharmaceutical hegemony at the same time that they squeezed the coffers of
global health aid. But perhaps most inspirationally, we watched TAC change
a government's policy and a population's ambition to beat back the scourge
of HIV and to build a health system and vibrant civil society that could
deliver the health rights that South Africans fought so hard to achieve.

TAC is facing a financial crisis that is not of its own doing but
precipitated by shortsighted and narrow-minded donors who think that a job
half-done is good enough. Nearly 3.5 million people living with HIV in
South Africa are still waiting in line for life saving treatment. Poor
service delivery, violence against women, and stigma and discrimination
still slow the national response. Bureaucrats dawdle and political elites
focus on their own machinations unless powerful social movements like those
led by TAC can continue to wage smart strategic campaigns to go all the way
to secure human rights and meet health needs.

We urge other academics, in South Africa and globally, to support the
Treatment Action Campaign and its vital work with both your financial and
intellectual assets. The TAC is the heart of the international Aids
movement – we cannot sit by and let that heartbeat still. *DM*

*Professor Brook K Baker, from the Northeastern U. School of Law, is an
Honorary Research Fellow University of KwaZulu-Natal. Professor Yousuf
Vawda is head of Public Law, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal.*

*Lotti Rutter*
Senior Researcher
Policy, Communications and Research

Treatment Action Campaign
Tel: 021 422 1700
Cell: 081 818 8493
Skype: lotti.rutter
Twitter: @TAC @FixPatentLaw @lottirutter

*www.tac.org.za* <http://www.tac.org.za/>

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