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S.A. ACTIVISTS LAUNCH CIVIL-DISOBEDIENCE CAMPAIGN
2003-05-01

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South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) launched a civil-disobedience campaign March 20 in hopes of forcing the government to make AIDS drugs available for the first time.

About 110 protesters marched to the Caledon Square police station and demanded that Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Trade Minister Alec Erwin be arrested for culpable homicide.

The police agreed to open a case against the officials then arrested the demonstrators for staging an illegal gathering. They were released with a warning to appear in court.

South Africa refuses to distribute HIV drugs saying they are toxic and that HIV may not be the cause of AIDS. One in five South African adults is HIV-positive, about 5 million people.

TAC continued its campaign on March 25, chanting, 'Manto, shut up' as Tshabalala-Msimang tried to address a public-health conference in Cape Town.

Tshabalala-Msimang and TAC Chairman Zackie Achmat got into a scuffle when Tshabalala-Msimang tried to grab a copy of a statement Achmat insisted on reading to the conferees.

Achmat eventually delivered the speech which accused Tshabalala-Msimang of having 'deceived, misrepresented, delayed and denied for too long.'

'We hope you will prove us wrong by making an unequivocal and irreversible commitment to antiretroviral therapy,' Achmat said, according to the South African Press Association.

More civil disobedience is planned in the form of sit-ins, hunger strikes and illegal importation and distribution of AIDS drugs, TAC leaders said.


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