South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign demands care for HIV+ prisoners

By Lucio Verani , volunteer for Friends of TAC-North America

NOVEMBER 2006 • Issue 1

Blending fierce street activism and political organizing with community education and lawsuits, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has won significant change, becoming a model for efforts worldwide.

The below piece, written by staff at TAC and the AIDS Law Project, provides an analysis on AIDS treatment in South African prisons. As background, in April of 2006, after unproductive meetings with prison officials, 15 prisoners at Westville Correctional Centre, TAC and the AIDS Law Project (ALP) used their Constitution’s right to health care (including the right of prisoners to adequate medical treatment) to bring a court case against government. On June 2006, the Court ordered government to roll out ARV treatment at Westville. Sadly, one of the 15 prisoners (known as MM) who won the case died this past August. He needed ARV treatment since 2003 but only got it on July 12th, 2006, just three weeks before dying.

TAC has struggled against their own government’s incompetence in responding to AIDS, but as they recently stated:

“The eight year struggle to end government HIV denialism and confusion has ended. A renewed focus on local and global mobilisation with the prison HIV deaths, the unnecessary appeals in the Westville Correctional Services Centre matter, and, the country’s painful embarrassment at [the] Toronto [International AIDS Conference] created the space where government and civil society are jointly facing up to the challenge of saving lives.”

In the spirit of co-operation, TAC has offered to settle its pending lawsuits against the government. One of these suits responded to the government’s appeals in the Westville prisoners’ case. Much work remains in building a functional health system, but the government is now on the right path and TAC, along with all of civil society, will play key roles in holding government accountable and in empowering South Africans.

For more information, visit TAC’s website at You can also subscribe to TAC’s e-newsletter, issued around once every two weeks, by emailing Additionally, readers can support TAC politically and financially by getting involved in Friends of TAC-North America.

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Filed under prison, Solidarity Project, South Africa, treatment access, Uncategorized

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