Govt, TAC should 'bury the hatchet'

The government and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) should bury the hatchet and unite in the fight against HIV/Aids, African National Congress (ANC) national executive committee member Zweli Mkhize said on Friday.

“I am aware that there was quite a lot of strain between the TAC and government and I said to some of the members, I hope we could bury that as a chapter of the past,” he told delegates at the TAC’s fourth national congress.

“We hope that we will try to reduce all the tensions ... and bring us to a point where we will move forward as one army taking on one common enemy,” he added.

Mkhize, whose daughter is a member of the TAC, said the ANC’s national executive committee, elected in December, could also “assist” to ensure that these tensions were avoided.

While relations between the TAC and the government have thawed recently, they had in the past seen the NGO calling repeatedly for the resignation of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

The axing of deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who was among delegates at the conference, further chilled the icy relationship between President Thabo Mbeki’s government and the TAC.

The organisation at the time lauded Madlala-Routledge who, together with Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, led the development of the HIV/Aids national strategic plan.

Mkhize told the TAC that the ruling party’s Polokwane conference had also resolved to tackle health issues with more vigour.
“One of the decisions that the ANC took in Polokwane in December was the decision to elevate health issues and HIV and education to the top priority,” he said.

The party has begun a campaign to improve awareness and inform South Africans at the grassroots level about the disease, its prevention and its treatment. He urged the TAC to do the same during the congress by discussing ways to educate people about HIV/Aids at the “local level”.

“The problem of HIV and Aids is a lot more a problem of people who are HIV-negative ... because if you are positive, you are very conscious of what you are doing, and if you are negative, you think you will never be positive. So I hope in your discussions you can find a way to fight HIV at a local level and deal with the problem of those thinking it cannot affect them,” he said.

Discussions on the disease go beyond health and have to address issues such as ignorance, unequal power relations between men and women, poverty and unhealthy sexual relations. Even women in leadership positions experience difficulty in negotiating safer sexual conduct due to these unequal power relations, Mkhize said.

It is also easier to become infected with the virus than it is to become pregnant, because the infection does not rely on a particular cycle of the month. “Infection can set in the first time and the only time there is sexual exposure,” he said.

Speakers set to address the TAC’s three-day congress include Mlambo-Ngcuka and Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Though Tshabalala-Msimang’s name appeared on the TAC’s line-up of speakers, the South African Press Association was informed that she would not be addressing the congress.—Sapa

Natasha Marrian

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