Johannesburg - Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists have pledged to continue the fight against HIV, Aids, and Tuberculosis (TB) in honour of activist Prudence Mabele and researcher Mark Wainberg.
Mabele, who was the founder and executive director of Positive Women’s Network, succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 46 in a Rosebank hospital in Johannesburg. She broke ground in 1992 in South Africa by publicly revealing her HIV-positive status. She was buried last week.
Dr Mark Wainber was a Canadian HIV researcher who died in April this year aged 71. He was a microbiologist who is credited for identifying a drug that became critical to treating people infected with HIV, and later becoming a leading advocate for access to antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs.
TAC deputy general secretary, Sibongile Tshabalala, said that in Mabele's honour and memory, activists pledge to work tirelessly to eliminate the unequal access to new ARVs, TB drugs, and tools for people living with HIV everywhere.
"We pledge to work together to do everything we can to strengthen the health system so it works for all, not just for wealthy and those in wealthy countries. We pledge to hold governments, donors, corporations and service providers accountable for delivering on the care for people living with HIV," Tshabalala said.
"We pledge to be innovative, unconventional and inconvenient in our approaches to ending the AIDS epidemic. Long live the legacies of Dr. Mark Wainberg and Prudence Nobantu Mabele, long live."
Tshabalala was delivering a speech on behalf of activists at the International Aids Society Conference in Paris, France, on Sunday.
She said that treatment literacy was almost completely missing from HIV and Aids response programs.
"At this conference, we will hear amazing data about what is possible and a lot of rhetoric about 'ending Aids'. But we need to be very clear the people who say that we will end Aids are not the people on the ground and they don't have a clue of what is happening. Aids is not over," Tshabalala said.
Tshabalala said governments refuse to use their "legal power" to break the stranglehold of drug companies over medicines such as MDR and XDR TB drugs as well as new ARVs.
"Where is the research into new TB drugs and TB-HIV drugs? Why is it so difficult to get a fixed dose drug for TB? ... if Prudence was alive today, she would say to hell with sitting in this meeting, shut up, stop talking, take action."