The Treatment Action Campaign—a South African ant-Aids lobby group—and its leader, Zackie Achmat, are joint nominees for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced on Friday.
“There could not be a better recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize than somebody who has contributed to save about 20 million people,” said Dr Eric Goemaere, head of Medicins Sans Frontieres South Africa.
Goemaere said the TAC had played an exceptional role in advocating access to treatment and access to human dignity beyond treatment.
“The work of the TAC has totally changed the world paradigm in that it showed that poor people could be treated in the same way as rich people. In 1999 it was still considered totally foolish the idea that an Aids sufferer could be treated with ARVs [antiretroviral medication]... [but] thanks to the TAC’s advocacy, which was very determined and intelligent, five years down the line nobody puts that in question,” said Geomare.
He said the TAC had offered hope and restored dignity to millions of Aids sufferers in Africa.
Professor Hoosen Coovadia, head of Aids research at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said: “It will be an appropriate recognition of a very important movement in the struggle for equal health and opportunities in all parts of the world.
“Zackie and the TAC have tackled key issues of global iniquity and access to drugs and they have also enhanced our democracy by seeing that the human rights clauses within our Constitution are realised to the fullest extent possible,” said Coovadia.
The TAC’s spokesman, Nathan Geffen, said: “It was a great honour for us to be nominated for the Nobel Prize. However, there are many other worthy individuals and organisations who have been nominated, some of whom work under even more difficult circumstances than us. So we do not have any expectations and for us its business as usual”.
Asked what will happen if TAC did win, he said: “Then we’ll be absolutely ecstatic”.
Michelle Galloway of the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative, said it would be a “huge honour” if the TAC won.
“We can learn many valuable lessons from the TAC and how they approached the treatment, prevention and support of HIV sufferers over the years,” said Galloway.
The Health Ministry, which has had a topsy-turvy relationship with TAC, said they wished the organisation well.
“Like any other South African that has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize we wish them all the luck,” said ministerial spokesman Sibani Mngadi.
Other contenders for the prize, include:
Other potential winners include former Czech president Vaclav Havel and the European Union (EU).
By Thursday, Irish online betting agency www.paddypower.com have El Baradei and the IAEA as favourites at even money, with the TAC at 16-to-1. US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair trail at 250-to-1.
A record 194 candidates, not all of whose names have been disclosed, are in the running for the prize this year.
The Nobel Peace Prize, which consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque for $1,3-million, will be announced on Friday at the Nobel Institute in Norway. - Sapa