The Treatment Action Campaign: Fighting for AIDS Justice


An SA Blog Valentine’s Day special post.

One of the most important social movements in post-apartheid South Africa centers around the fight for AIDS justice.

Although the prevalance of AIDS in SA is among the highest in the world, the government’s response to the epidemic has been disturbingly misguided (see, for instance, this article from SA’s Health-E News) – possibly the gloomiest shadow to have crossed our first decade of democracy.

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The Treatment Action Campaign, or TAC, has led the charge for a renaissance in AIDS policymaking, and remains the most effective of the government’s many critics. The TAC has repeatedly taken SA’s Minister for Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, to court, in an effort to force the public health system to supply life-saving medicines like anti-retrovirals. So far, it has had limited success. The judges regularly side with the TAC, but the Department of Health’s slow or inadequate responses to their orders spur continued action, both inside and outside the courtroom.

  • To contribute to the fight for AIDS justice in South Africa, visit the TAC website, which has a credit card donation facility. Or email the TAC direct: donatenow@tac.org.za.


Currently, the TAC is embroiled in a complicated legal and ideological war involving a Western vitamin manufacturer (the notorious Matthias Rath – click at your peril), local traditional healers, and the usual government bureaucrats. Tactics have sunk to the level of dirty tricks – which, given that AIDS is involved, has inevitably cost lives. (A useful summary of the mess is provided by this press release on a Nov 2005 protest march.)

The protracted but necessary legal action against Rath et al has sidetracked the TAC somewhat (which is what, some will darkly mutter, the Health Ministry has wanted), but it remains the most potent force for change in the HIV/AIDS arena, and continues to carry the hopes of the millions in SA affected by the disease.