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We must take strong action to stop HIV/AIDS

Posted on: September 24, 2001 12:41 PM
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Joint Statement of the Anglican Church,
Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC),
COSATU and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)

Bishopscourt, Cape Town

30 September 2001

In an historic meeting on September 17, 2001, representatives of the Anglican Church, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, COSATU and the Treatment Action Campaign met, out of a common commitment to life and dignity, to join forces against the AIDS epidemic.

It can no longer be denied that AIDS is by far the leading cause of death for adult South Africans, especially those between 20 and 50. The report by the Medical Research Council (MRC) says that, unless we can ensure that all HIV-positive people get treatment, between four and seven million South Africans will die over the coming decade.

The MRC report only confirms the experience of our people and organisations. Our clergy report that every week, they are burying people who die of AIDS. Young workers are disappearing and dying from "natural causes" in the prime of live, leaving their families behind with no income or support. Educators and learners are buried alongside each other. Mothers watch their babies die prematurely and unnecessarily from AIDS. We could continue this list indefinitely.

No one in our country can afford to deny the terrible extent of this epidemic. The meeting expressed concerns over the attempts of some in government to downplay its impact. The data are clear, and must not be obscured by wishful thinking. No organisation or individual should try to suppress the facts - that way lies disaster.

Faith-based organisations, trade unions and TAC are committed to building an effective alliance of civil society to prevent new HIV infections and ensure that people with HIV/AIDS get life-prolonging and effective treatment. This includes the development of a national treatment plan that includes anti-retroviral therapy.

We have agreed:

  • To set up a working group that will develop shared campaigns to overcome the denial syndrome that has emerged in some official and unofficial circles; and
  • To work with representatives of civil society in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) to guide and challenge our national leaders to take more positive action on AIDS, to replace the cycle of controversy and denial with co-operation, common purpose and courage in the national interest.

Government must ensure that its policies face up to the national emergency caused by AIDS, or it will fail our people in both human and economic terms. We call on it:

  • To declare that the AIDS epidemic constitutes a National Emergency.
  • To take into account the extent and impact of AIDS in all its policies and public statements, providing the moral and political leadership our country so desperately needs.
  • To increase the health budget and ensure cheaper anti-retrovirals and other medications, in order to provide adequate care for HIV-positive people, and to expand prevention and educational campaigns.

Even one death from AIDS is a death too many. We need to use every tool at our disposal, from education and prevention to treatment, to address this national emergency. We call on all faith-based organisations, every trade union, and all civil society organisations to join us. We are making HIV/AIDS a top priority. We call on our government to do the same.

Njonkulu Ndungane
Archbishop of Cape Town, Chairperson of the AIDS Commission of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa

Willie Madisha
President of COSATU

Zackie Achmat
Chairperson of TAC

The Rev Father Richard Menatsi
General Secretary of the SACBC