Zackie Achmat speaks at All Africa House despite illness

05 May 2003

Champion and hero: Zackie Achmat in full flight at All Africa House.

AIDS activist Zackie Achmat shrugged off a bout of poor health to put in a promised appearance at All Africa House (AAH) recently, where he thralled the turnout with another impassioned homily on the need for free antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Achmat flew into Cape Town from Pretoria where he had met with deputy president Jacob Zuma to again discuss this and issues broached by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and other groups. While Monday Paper had been asked to keep mum about the details of this tryst, certain assurances had been made by Zuma, Achmat confided.

In his talk, Achmat touched briefly on the TAC's current civil disobedience campaign, through which it hopes to get the South African government to make "an irreversible and unequivocal commitment" to a public sector antiretroviral programme. The TAC also insists that the state must commit itself to signing a framework treatment and prevention plan agreement negotiated at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), he said.

Achmat's appearance at AAH followed shortly after he had been named as one of 35 "Heroes 2003" in Time magazine's European edition, a list that includes U2's Bono, soccer icon David Beckham and JK Rowling, author of the cult Harry Potter series.

The AAH seminar turned out to be a two-part affair on the evening, with Professor Ed Rybicki of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology providing a look at the scientific, political and social debate that surrounds the disease in South Africa. In his talk, the ever-evolving HIV, AIDS, Denialism, Myths, Politics and the Media, he again lambasted scientists, politicos and journalists alike for their sometimes uninformed contributions to the discussion.

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