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What's New in Public Policy?
Excerpts from Hotline Memos of November 2001
from the Information Department of Project Inform

December 2001

Letters of Solidarity Needed for Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa

Last week, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), an organization of treatment activists in South Africa, began court hearings to require the South African government to provide access to nevirapine for HIV-positive pregnant women as part of efforts to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. TAC and two other parties are suing the South African National Department of Health and eight of nine provincial health ministers, demanding that the government make nevirapine available (under proper medical supervision) at all public hospitals and health clinics. In addition, the suit asks that the government create and implement a comprehensive plan to reduce mother-to-child transmission.

TAC and the other plaintiffs ask that this program be created within three months. The program should include voluntary HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, the provision of nevirapine "where appropriate" and a supply of formula to help prevent HIV transmission through breast-feeding. This lawsuit has received support from over 150 health professionals, trade unions, religious organizations, and human rights groups.

Boehringer Ingelheim has offered to provide nevirapine free of charge to developing nations. Currently, South Africa only offers the drug through 18 pilot programs across the country. The government states that it is focusing on researching the issue, studying safety issues and effectiveness.

According to TAC, nearly 300,000 women with HIV will give birth in the next year. The majority do not know their HIV status and are not provided information or access to treatment that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their child. TAC predicts that at least 70,000 children could become infected with HIV during labor and breastfeeding.

TAC is asking for individuals and organizations around the world to send letters of support for their efforts. These letters will help with their court case and demonstrate that they are not alone in their fight. This is an easy, yet powerful, way to show solidarity for their efforts to reduce the spread of HIV in South Africa.


What You Can Do

We encourage you to take a few minutes and write a short statement of support for TAC's efforts. You can use the enclosed sample letter to help craft your message. There are many ways that you can send your statement:
  1. Faxes are preferred, because they will arrive quickly and will be in your writing or have your signature. Handwritten letters are extremely powerful and effective. You can fax your letter to ACT UP/Philadelphia (215-731-1845) or Project Inform (415-558-0684) and it will be re-faxed to TAC. You can also scan your letter and email it as an attachment to actupphilly@critpath.org.

  2. If you do not have access to a fax machine, you can send your letter in the form of an email to the Treatment Action Campaign at info@tac.org.za. Make sure you include your full name and address in the email.

  3. If you do not have fax or email capability, you can mail your letter to Project Inform (attn: TAN) and we will fax your letter to TAC.

Thanks to Health GAP (Global Access Project) for the information contained in this Alert. You can learn more about Health GAP at www.globaltreatmentaccess.org. For more information about the Treatment Action Campaign, go to www.tac.org.za.


Sample Letter

I am writing in support of Treatment Action Campaign's legal action to guarantee access to HIV preventive therapy for pregnant women and infants in South Africa as part of a comprehensive program for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Insert short personal statement here. If you or someone you care about is living with HIV, please consider writing a few sentences about your personal experiences.

It has been demonstrated that access to antiretroviral drugs can dramatically reduce transmission of HIV from pregnant women to children. I strongly support TAC's efforts on this issue.

Sincerely,

Your name


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