A protest and die-in during the 13th ICASA gathered more than 100 African activists. They marched, chanting through the conference, stopping at the booths of governments, US government and Pharma. After the action, the activists hold a press conference [[Speakers : Spokesperson from the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, Kenya ; Prudence Mubele, HIV+ activist, Treatment Action Campaign (South Africa) ; Dokla Kokouvi Augustin, President of the Network of PLWHIV Association of Togo (RAS+Togo) ; Mohammed Farouk, Treatment Access Movement (TAM) ; Patricia Asero Ochieng, Kenyan Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines.]].
During the 13th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, AIDS activists from African countries demanded immediate action from governments to ensure the implementation of national HIV/AIDS treatment plans, in order to attain the goal of putting 3 million people with HIV on antiretroviral treatment by 2005.
PATAM, a Pan-African coalition of activists and PLWH/A committed to mobilizing communities and the continent to ensure access to affordable HIV/AIDS treatment for all who need it, welcomes the 22 September 2003 announcement by the World Health Organization that lack of access to antiretroviral treatment constitutes a “Global Health Emergency.” PATAM states that unless governments show the necessary political will, this declaration will have no meaning.
«A quarter-million Kenyans require immediate treatment or they will die, but the Kenyan government is not even keeping its promise to treat 6,000 said Mercy Otim of the Kenya Coalition for Access to Essential Medicines. This example of government neglect is only one of many.»
«I am alive today because of access to treatment said Prudence Mabele of the Treatment Action Campaign and the Positive Women’s Network, South Africa. Only 60,000 Africans have access — less than 1% of those who need it. Governments move from talk to life-saving action, so this universal access in Africa becomes a reality.»
Activists argued that despite the signing of the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS , the Abuja Declaration ratified at the African Union in 2001, the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, and many other declarations, few if any tangible benefits have reached people living with HIV/AIDS as a result.
The activists released the following demands:
– All governments must keep the promises they made in these declarations, including:
- African countries commit 15% of their national budgets to health spending ;
- They produce, procure, or import low-cost, quality generic medicines, even where patent barriers exist ;
- Countries support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through through ambitious, quality applications that include substantial treatment components;
- Donor countries spend $10 billion annually to fight AIDS in poor countries, and fully fund the Global Fund;
– Government create and implement national treatment plans that include clear, time-bound goals for scaling up lifesaving care for PLWH/A;
– PLWH/A be consulted at all steps in the development and implementation of these plans; •That the needs and interests of the most vulnerable and most marginalized groups, in particular women and children, be prioritized at all levels;
– That the human rights of PLWH/A be protected and promoted in the laws all countries.
«Governments must get their priorities straight, said Delme Cupido of the AIDS Law Unit (Namibia). Instead of wasting money on endless wars, unnecessary militaries, or salaries for corrupt bureaucrats, poor countries must invest in their own national plans, and rich countries in the cash- strapped Global Fund.»
«PATAM is watching and we will continue to hold governments accountable said Therese Omari of Fondation Femme Plus (Democratic Republic of Congo). We are ready to work with governments in implementing HIV/AIDS plans. We are already engaging with our communities in treatment literacy training. As Stephen Lewis remarked during the ICASA opening ceremony, ordinary Africans have moved mountains, yet governments, in both donor and African countries, remain at the foothills.
We do not need any more declarations; we need access to medicines and equitable, universal, national treatment programs that will save lives now.»