In it for the long haul
A number of people have over the years played a role in the development of the TAC and our battle for antiretrovirals. There are too many to mention. In the following pages a small group of people who played a role in one way or another and represent various constituencies, share their recollections of the past and their dreams for the future.
The early days during 1999 when I joined the TAC were very tough. Those of us who were in the struggle to save people’s lives experienced many pro-longed periods of adversity. However, despite what at times felt like insurmountable hurdles, my community never waivered in their passion and commitment to making a positive, sustainable and long-lasting difference in the lives of our members. We all wanted to make a positive difference and a change for the better.
I vividly recall a time before there were ARVs. Many people were dying, and many were sick. Many had lost hope that treatment could ever be a possibility. The time before ARVs were tragic times – communities were becoming separated instead of remaining unified. Also, there was fighting and conflict within government. This, in addition to the adversities in communities proved to be extremely taxing on my community – emotionally, physically and psychologically. Funerals became the order of the day.
Looking back I have spent a great 15 years of my life in social movements organising and campaign for social justice in communities around Cape Town. I believe that in the last 16 years, the TAC has played an enormous, important and significant role on so many levels. It has helped to organise, delegate and mobilise communities into pursuing the common goal of ensuring universal access to HIV treatment. It has also taken health education, consciousness and awareness onto a macro level, to community level, into homes. I believe that there is still much work to be done. Just because we have had 10 years of ARVs, it does not mean we can take a step back and relax. I believe we need to carry on educating communities, removing the stigma of HIV/AIDS and continue our solid work on preventing diseases from spreading in communities. More importantly, we need to keep on mobilising communities, to keep them hungry in their pursuit of collective action.
The reason I still have the drive to work at TAC is simply because it provides a platform for people. It acts as a voice for the voiceless; and helps the people who feel helpless. Furthermore TAC holds government accountable in ensuring access to lifesaving drugs.
I feel heartache and sadness for the families who could not get ARV access in the early days. They have had to experience the adverse reality of not having family members amongst them anymore. For this reason we need the TAC – the TAC needs to ensure that their work is in honour of the families who have lost loved ones.
The TAC has evolved throughout the years. It has not just been about addressing health issues, but it also addresses other issues. It has assisted other organisations devoted to the struggle not only in health, but other social issues such as education. Without the involvement and initiative of the TAC our democracy (of South Africa) is otherwise destroyed or undermined. For me, the TAC is crucial: communities have placed full confidence and trust in the TAC.
They see the TAC as a body that combats social challenges, holds government accountable and highlights institutional corruption. We are in this for the long haul. I am in it for the long haul.