South Africa: COSATU statement on HIV/AIDS
At its meeting on April 26, COSATU's Central Executive Committee (CEC) described the victory against the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association (PMA) as a critical step toward establishing a legal framework for making medicines in South Africa affordable. It was also an important victory of activists, poor people and people with HIV/AIDS over corporate abuse of power, the CEC said in a statement issued after the meeting. The PMA had taken the South African Government to court to try to prevent it implementing legislation to make it possible to provide the poor of South Africa with affordable medicines. Under immense public pressure, the pharmaceutical companies withdrew their case. The CEC recognised that this victory was only possible because of a superbly organised global effort and the dedication of thousands of volunteers. COSATU congratulated and thanked all their allies and supporters for their contributions. There is still a long battle ahead before affordable medicines are accessible to all those who need them. "If steps are not taken immediately to implement the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act, the victory could prove to be a hollow one", the CEC said. "The whole of civil society has to share the responsibility for taking the campaign forward" the statement said. "COSATU demands that employers, especially the big corporations, provide free treatment to those of their workers and their families who are living with HIV/AIDS. We also demand that insurance companies, banks and medical aid schemes end all discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. "But the government has a special responsibility to give a lead. COSATU will be government's firmest supporter when it does the right thing, such as introducing the Medicines Act, but we will be its sternest critic if it fails to meet its constitutional duties to protect life and dignity." COSATU said that the government must: * Immediately implement the Medicines Act; * Immediately promulgate the regulations required under the Act; * Begin implementing a countrywide mother-to-child transmission programme without further unnecessary delays; * Immediately apply for voluntary licences on essential generic medicines; * Invest more money into AIDS prevention programmes and include treatment as part of the prevention message; Develop a treatment plan by June 16 which will outline how treatment will be made accessible to all South Africans with HIV/AIDS, opportunistic and sexually transmitted diseases, and will commit the government to increased health-care spending. Linked to these measures, the government must urgently introduce a comprehensive social security system, to end the poverty and hunger which contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS and makes its treatment far more difficult. "An important lesson from the PMA court case has been that global solidarity on social issues is immensely powerful. We would not have won so easily and quickly without global mobilisation. Issues of concern to all poor countries must be combated with a united front", COSATU said. The next big battle is Brazil's legal battle in the World Trade Organisation with the United States pharmaceutical companies who want to stop the Brazilian Government doing the same as the South African Government is trying to do.