The Guardian December 13, 2000


World AIDS Day 2000
Memorandum to the Government of South Africa

The World Health Organisation reports that by November this year 2.4 
million people in Africa have died from AIDS (up from to 2.2 million in the 
whole of 1999). More than four million South Africans are living with 
HIV/AIDS, and there are 1,500 new infections daily.

A large majority of those infected are working class people, and a majority 
of them are women. 13.5 per cent of South Africa's workforce is HIV 
positive.

The United Nations predicts that the country's economic growth rate will 
decline by 0.3 per cent  to 0.4 per cent a year, resulting in a gross 
domestic product 17 per cent lower than it would have been without AIDS.

In a Memorandum to the South African Government from COSATU, handed over on 
December 2, 2000, COSATU's 15th anniversary, the country's peak trade union 
body said: "HIV/AIDS is here-and-now an emergency.

"This is a crisis situation that calls for extraordinary measures. The time 
for debate is over. The government must now take drastic action to fight 
this deadly killer."

COSATU and the South African government are both members of the South 
African National AIDS Council (SANAC).

"The epidemic will have an immense impact on families, communities, the 
working class and the poor, the economy, the public health system and 
social services. Unless addressed dynamically it can undermine all of our 
transformation objectives", said COSATU.

Every 10 minutes a person with HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa dies.

COSATU points out that these deaths are premature and unnecessary because 
there are medications that can and will keep adults and children with 
HIV/AIDS alive, healthy and productive for many years.

"Children are orphaned daily yet, with medicines, their parents can live to 
take care of them. Price and excessive profits by drug companies denies 
poor people access to health", says the trade union body.

COSATU has welcomed an agreement between the South African Government and 
pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to provide Fluconazole for people living with 
HIV/AIDS.

COSATU also called on the South African Government to ensure that "the drug 
companies also commit resources for distribution of these drugs and the 
availability of relevant technologies".

Observing that, if the distribution of the Pfizer drugs is to be effective, 
South Africa's health service infrastructure would need to be improved "to 
ensure that there are accessible medical centres staffed by appropriately 
trained medical workers in every area", COSATU's Memorandum went on to say 
that "treatment on its own is not enough".

COSATU declared its support for a "dynamic and holistic" response to 
HIV/AIDS, one which links access to information, awareness, prevention and 
counselling together with access to services, management, care and 
treatment of opportunistic diseases associated with HIV/AIDS.

"Therefore", says COSATU, "we need massive improvement in the public health 
and welfare systems which require increased resources and investment from 
government."

Declaring that "the rate of new infections can be drastically reduced and 
even eliminated through a mass campaign of public education, openness, and 
care and support for people and families living with HIV/AIDS", COSATU 
demands "the mobilisation of sufficient government resources.

"Government must pursue the objective of accessing affordable HIV/AIDS 
drugs through parallel importation and compulsory licensing. Government 
must also take steps to direct and discipline private capital to release 
resources for this national effort.

"This also applies to the conditions facing workers living with HIV/AIDS 
who face continuous and massive discrimination from employers, insurance 
companies, pension funds. In this regard government must enforce and expand 
the scope of existing legislation against discrimination in order to root 
out this unfair discrimination."

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