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Activists Protest South African AIDS Treatment


South Africa’s Treatment Access Campaign has staged protests nationwide and abroad at South African embassies and consulates in Canada and the United States. Activists also demonstrated yesterday at South Africa’s Departments of Health and Correctional Services to demand immediate compliance with a court order to treat HIV-positive prisoners. Rukia Cornelius is the national campaign manager for the Treatment Action Campaign; she spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser about the anti-AIDS advocacy group and its mission.

“At the moment, one government department doesn’t speak to the next government department about a response to HIV and AIDS. And so there’s no clarity about who’s responsible for what at the end of the day. We are the country with the highest HIV affliction. There isn’t a single person who isn’t affected or infected by this pandemic in our country,” she said.

Organizations in the United States and Canada participated in the protests at South African embassies and consulates in Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Ottawa. They also demanded the resignation of South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has been criticized for her claims that HIV does not cause AIDS, and suggestions that remedies such as garlic are effective as anti-HIV drugs.

Cornelius says delusional authorities hinder much-needed progress.

“We still have 800 people dying every day, and that’s unacceptable. We have a thousand new infections a day. It’s unacceptable. And as a country, we need to say why has nothing we’ve done in the past been working,” she noted.

Last week, 45 members of the Treatment Action Campaign were arrested after seizing government offices in objection to denying South African prisoners retroviral AIDS treatment.

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