As the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) battles severe funding shortages which have in turn led to job cuts, the organization is facing increased calls for its de-registration. Leading these calls has been the Free State branch of the ANCYL, but whilst political organizations have been quick to turn on the popular activism group, others have warned of the disastrous effects this may have on the country’s public healthcare system.
The TAC is widely credited with leading pressure on former President Thabo Mbeki to allow access to HIV/AIDS antiretroviral drugs in the country. The group also seeks to monitor and ensure treatment is provided to those affected with the disease.
And according to Dr Prinitha Pillay of the Rural Health Advocacy Project, a Johannesburg based group that advocates for better healthcare for those residing in rural areas, the TAC are renowned for its position as a ‘citizen led, patient centered’ movement.
“The work that the TAC is doing is critical and so relevant to a person’s daily life…They are one of those organizations that allows the voice (of patients) to be heard,” she said.
Pillay said calls for the de-registration of the group were distracting efforts to tackle the scourge of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, as well as taking aim at the heart of those seeking to hold the public health system accountable.
“I think the role of the TAC and other patient rights organizations as watchdogs, is paramount to holding elected health officials to account for the services. They are also important to mobilize communities to get tested for HIV, to help people keep on treatment, and to help government realize their own policies,” she explained.
As opposed to the negative attitude shown towards the TAC of late, she suggested more government support need be directed towards the organization. Furthermore, her organization was also calling for better planning and budgeting for the distribution of treatments to patients.
“We can’t have continuing drug stock outs, we cannot have patients leaving empty handed, and we cannot have frozen posts of human resources at a critical time when there is a human resource crisis in the country,” she said.
As for the TAC itself, Pillay said it was imperative the group continue it’s ‘struggle’ to keep the focus on the needs of patients, as well as to hold the public healthcare system accountable. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)