Free State Aids workers’ computers seized

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Security officials seized the computers of Free State Aids Council members in an apparent bid to catch whistle-blowers who exposed recent medicine shortages in provincial clinics. File Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Johannesburg - Security officials this week seized the computers of Free State Aids Council members in an apparent bid to catch whistle-blowers who exposed recent medicine shortages in provincial clinics.

Free State Aids Council employee Sello Mohalipi has been forced to move out of Bloemfontein after getting deaths threats following the recent Stop the Stockouts report, which found 54 percent of Free State health facilities had experienced shortages of antiretroviral medicine.

This is according to Mark Heywood, director of the NGO Section27, who addressed the media at the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa.

Heywood said his organisation was investigating who was behind the raid on the Aids Council, as those who carried off the computers had identified themselves as both the Hawks and security officials from the health MEC’s office.

“They said they wanted to find out who is behind the leaks about problems in the health system,” said Heywood.

“While we have a good relationship with national health officials trying to address medicine stockouts, there is fierce intolerance of independent organisations in some provinces.”

Heywood said the raid had been reported to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe via the SA National Aids Council.

Meanwhile, African civil society organisations used International Human Rights Day to invoke the spirit of Nelson Mandela and demonstrate against the lack of human rights in many African countries.

Marching and picketing in and around the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the alliance of organisations from a number of African countries demanded that the continent ensure all had equal access to healthcare, and the repeal of laws that criminalised sex work and homosexuality.

“Thirteen million people across Africa still don’t have access to the life-saving HIV medicines they need,” said a statement issued by the marchers, including the Treatment Action Campaign. “Medicines stockouts, corruption, mismanagement and lack of political will to deal with these problems are undermining our struggle against HIV.

“The best new HIV drugs keeping people in wealthy countries alive and healthy remain out of reach for people and health systems in Africa.”

Activists demanded that African countries amend their patent laws to allow affordable, quality and safe generic HIV drugs to be made and imported for all. In addition, countries around the world that do produce generic drugs are facing extreme pressure from the developed world to enter into restrictive trade agreements that threaten even the status quo on access to medicines. “Access to medicines is fundamental to the realisation of the right to health,” the statement said.

The organisations reminded the conference of Mandela’s speech to the International Aids Conference in Bangkok in 2004, when he said: “We share a common humanity with our brothers and sisters suffering in this epidemic. Ask yourself what you can do as a global citizen in the fight against HIV. We must never forget our own responsibilities.”

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