Fu­ner­als

Sec­tion 27, Save SA and Unite Against Cor­rup­tion ac­tivist Mark Hey­wood has writ­ten a book about the fight for so­cial jus­tice in the coun­try. In this ex­tract, he re­turns to 2003 to re­count the ter­ri­ble toll of Aids and the war be­tween the Treat­ment Ac­tion

CityPress - - Voices -

There was a lot of pain back in those days.

The ter­ri­ble phys­i­cal pain and emo­tional puz­zle­ment as to why treat­ment for Aids would be with­held from ac­tivists like Ed­ward Mabunda and Christo­pher Mo­raka, and tens of thou­sands of oth­ers, are not un­der­stood or felt by the apol­o­gists for Aids de­nial­ism. Aids was clothed in stigma and fear, so many did not see its ter­ri­ble hu­man toll. You had to be with me on the front­line to wit­ness the pain. Mem­bers of the TAC, par­tic­u­larly its lead­er­ship, ob­served so many deaths that we might as well have been liv­ing through a war. I was wit­ness to the car­nage; I re­mem­ber walk­ing through grave­yards af­ter bury­ing an­other TAC mem­ber, look­ing at freshly dug mound af­ter freshly dug mound, mostly of young peo­ple and in­fants, the ceme­tery no sooner va­cated by one group of mourn­ers than it was filled by an­other. Traf­fic jams to bury the dead.

This is not some­thing un­der­stood by those who, like the Rev­erend Frank Chikane, wish to rein­vent pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki as a global states­man. In fact, it’s not just that it’s not un­der­stood: it’s over­looked or for­given. Mbeki may be ur­bane, in­tel­li­gent and suave. But the fact re­mains that he has got off scot-free. A peer-re­viewed ar­ti­cle published in the Jour­nal of Ac­quired Im­mune De­fi­ciency Syn­drome has recorded the cost of his em­brace of Aids de­nial­ism: “More than 330 000 lives or ap­prox­i­mately 2.2 mil­lion per­son­years were lost be­cause a fea­si­ble and timely ARV treat­ment pro­gramme was not im­ple­mented in South Africa. Thirty-five thou­sand ba­bies were born with HIV, re­sult­ing in 1.6 mil­lion per­son-years lost by not im­ple­ment­ing a mother-to-child trans­mis­sion pro­phy­laxis pro­gramme us­ing nevi­rap­ine. The to­tal lost ben­e­fits of ARVs are at least 3.8 mil­lion per­son-years for the pe­riod 2000 to 2005.” That record can­not be ex­punged. It will be there un­til the end of time. It must never be for­got­ten or for­given.

PHOTO: TAC / FACE­BOOK

Treat­ment Ac­tion Cam­paign ac­tivists con­tinue to fight for an­tiretro­vi­rals to be freely avail­able in all com­mu­ni­ties

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