By Brian Honermann and Mark Heywood
“The magnitude of the HIV/AIDS challenge facing the country calls for a concerted, co-ordinated and co-operative national effort in which government in each of its three spheres and the panoply of resources and skills of civil society are marshalled, inspired and led. This can only be achieved if there is proper communication, especially by government.”
On 5 July 2002, 10 years ago today, the Constitutional Court delivered these words as part of its judgment in Minister of Health and Others v Treatment Action Campaign and Others (the TAC Case). After a bitter political dispute between TAC and the government it upheld the constitutional right of all HIV positive pregnant women to access health care services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT).
This decision came despite the best efforts of former President Thabo Mbeki and then Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. It came despite lackey Health MECs, such as Sibongile Manana and later Peggy Nkonyeni, trying to use their gate control over Provincial hospitals and clinics trying to deny and delay access to such services in the public health system.
Thanks must go to young women with HIV like Sarah Hlahlele and Charlene Wilson, who literally gave up their lives in this struggle. We must also acknowledge brave doctors such as Haroon Saloojee, Ashraf Coovadia and Keith Bolton who formed an organisation called Save Our Babies to take the issue to Court.
The TAC decision ushered in a new era in the response to HIV in South Africa and the world. Before this, the doors to HIV care and treatment had been closed. Immediately after the decision, health care workers able to deliver the ARV drug Nevirapine in the public health care system were freed to do so. READ MORE »