By Tamar Kahn, Science And Education Correspondent
first signs of a thaw in relations between state and AIDS activists came
yesterday as Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)
representatives said they had met face to face for the first time on Tuesday.
the activists may not yet be home and dry in their long-running campaign to
persuade government to provide antiretroviral medicines to HIV-positive patients
in the public sector, a joint statement released yesterday indicated the deputy
president wants to resolve several key HIV/AIDS issues.
addition to an "extensive" discussion on TAC's call for government to
implement a national treatment plan which would include provision of
antiretrovirals by World AIDS day on December 1, the two parties discussed the
controversy relating to the disbursal of grants from the United Nations Global
Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the restructuring of the SA National
AIDS Council (Sanac).
as-yet unresolved row over the Global Fund centres on whether national
government can pool its $93m grant with the $72m grant made to KwaZulu-Natal and
redistribute the funds. Sanac has been criticised by a range of AIDS
organisations, which accuse it of failing to represent the interests of people
living with HIV/AIDS, and lacking adequate representation from civil society and
accompanied by health directorgeneral Ayanda Ntsaluba, signalled the importance
of the National Economic, Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) process under
way to develop a "framework agreement" for a national HIV/AIDS
treatment plan, and agreed that it should be presented to Sanac.
constituted a special AIDS task team to develop this framework agreement last
month, in a move many observers believed might provide an opening for people
within government who supported the provision of antiretrovirals.
secretary Mark Heywood des- cribed the meeting at the
sense was that Jacob Zuma wanted to collaborate on key issues, and endorsed the
Nedlac process," said Heywood. He said Zuma's only apparent concern was
that the time frames presented by TAC might not be feasible.