Activists bury friend, and vow to fight on

By Elize Jacobs Time of article published Apr 21, 2003

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The message from Aids activists who attended Charlene Wilson's funeral is clear: they will fight even harder for access to anti-retroviral drugs.

"(Health Minister) Manto (Tshabalala-Msimang) will do what we want her to do, like it or not. We will picket and picket until we all fall sick or die," Treatment Action Campaign activist Hazel Tau said in her tribute to Wilson, who died last week.

TAC members vowed to double their efforts to campaign for a decent public health-care system.

Activists chanted "Viva treatment", "Viva Charlene" and "Down with Manto" whenever there was a pause in the service.

Placards of Wilson's face bearing the words "Why civil disobedience is necessary" were posted throughout Eersterus and along the route to the Pretoria East cemetery where she was buried.

Friends said the 29-year-old woman was committed to the cause of fighting for treatment for all.

"She did not die of anti-retrovirals," said her friend Maria Sekaja, who is also HIV-positive.

"She died because knowledge of the drugs and its side-effects was not available to her through our public health-care system."

Too weak to attend, TAC chairperson Zackie Achmat sent a statement praising Wilson: "She came out proudly in a community that was often hostile to her and stigmatised those with HIV."

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