The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in Capetown in December 1998.
At that time, its founders – including Zackie Achmat, a well known anti-apartheid and gay-rights activist – wanted to let every South African know that cheap drugs to treat HIV and AIDS did exist. They wanted pharmaceutical companies to drop their prices for these drugs, and they put pressure on the ruling African National Congress to make them free at state hospitals.
TAC’s initial lobbying began at a time when the spread of HIV was spiralling out of control. According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in South Africa increased from less than 1% in 1990 to 25% in 2000.
In the last ten years, TAC has become the most powerful HIV and AIDS lobby group in the region. Its vision is for a unified, quality healthcare system, which provides equal access to HIV prevention and treatment services for all people.
TAC has trained a number of people to become Community Health Advocates, otherwise known as CHAs. They lobby government policymakers, healthcare professionals and community leaders at every level.
They also do valuable daily door-to-door work in order to educate households about HIV and give them advice about accessing treatment centres.
The programme has recently made significant progress in other areas too, namely improving capacity in local healthcare systems, making the criminal justice system more efficient and extending the social security structure.
Intervention by CHAs has also contributed to communities reporting more cases of rape. In these cases, the local TAC branch follows up by focusing on gender and rape education campaigns in the district.
One of the reasons that people living with HIV don’t get the right treatment is that they don’t know all the facts.
Having all the information they need to help them understand their treatment options, make the right decisions and manage any side effects is really important. It improves their chances of living longer and in better health. TAC’s Treatment Literacy Programme provides that information.
It also supports those who provide the medical care, by helping them make sure that the care they give is suitable and effective for each patient. The programme’s workers – called Treatment Literacy Practitioners (TLPs) – educate people too, in schools, hospitals and homes.
Early HIV diagnosis improves the prognosis. The TLPs are able to help people get tested for HIV, counsel them and advise at every step. They also help to prevent mother-to-child transmission, TB and other infections.
This programme has also recently trained three new investigators on rape issues.
To give an example of its great reach and success, TAC estimates that over 100,000 people will be reached by their Treatment Literacy Programme in the Eastern Cape in 2008.
For more details about TAC, please click here