Socialist Worker

The 14,000 people infected with HIV every day deserve hope

Nkhensani Mavasa is deputy chairperson of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and attended the Toronto conference

Issue No. 2015

Nkhensani Mavasa

Nkhensani Mavasa

‘There were three big issues for me that came out of the conference. The first is accountability of the political leaderships that were there.

As with so many other conferences of this type, there were many declarations of what the problems were, but far less clarity about how resources were to be provided to make those words real.

The second is the lack of action over prevention and treatment, and the targeting of money to effective programmes. Thirdly there is the question of participation by people with Aids themselves.

I was born in 1978. I am HIV-positive and open about my status. People with Aids are talked about a great deal at these conferences but we are frequently patronised and talked down to. We are not at the centre of the debate or allowed to put forward our policy ideas.

It is unacceptable if people with Aids and activists coming from the regions most affected by HIV have a lesser voice than people who are rich.

At conferences like Toronto the question arises whether this is a Hollywood conference or an Aids conference? Bill Clinton and Bill Gates become the focus.

Women constitute nearly 60 percent of the world’s 40.3 million HIV positive people. That makes us rage against women’s oppression and violence against women, which has been demonstrated to be directly linked to HIV infection. Among young people in Africa, women constitute 77 percent of new infections.

We asked that the Toronto conference not fail us yet again.

The entire world’s HIV positive people deserve this hope. All the 14,000 more who will be infected by the end of today deserve this hope.

None of the 800 people who will die in my country today deserve to die.

When G8 leaders announced last year that universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support must be our target for 2010, those of us for whom this means life or death rejoiced. It must be made real, and that requires grassroots organisation and campaigning.

While in the past we have hesitated, debated, restrained our actions, failed to protect vulnerable groups, the epidemic has raged on. We cannot aim for less than 100 percent truth, leadership, accountability, universal access to prevention, care, treatment and support.’

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