After a decade of adversarial relations with Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (who advocated "garlic and beetroot" rather than antiretrovirals), leading HIV/AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) is celebrating the appointment of Barbara Hogan as South Africa's new Minister of Health.
"We are confident that Hogan has the ability to improve the South African health system. She has been one of the few Members of Parliament to speak out against AIDS denialism and to offer support to the TAC, even during the worst period of AIDS denialism by former President Thabo Mbeki and former Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. 0n 14 February 2003, she received the TAC memorandum to President Mbeki for a treatment plan. She was removed as Finance Portfolio Chairperson by Mbeki in part for her stand on HIV/AIDS. She has a reputation for being hard-working, competent and principled."
"Hogan has a long record of struggle for
human rights. Twenty-seven years ago, she was detained and tortured by
the apartheid security Police. She was tried for treason as an ANC
member and spent eight years in prison.
Dr (Molefi) Sefularo (the new Deputy Minister of Health), during his tenure as MEC for Health of North West Province, supported ARV rollout and the implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) in the province.
There are tremendous challenges ahead for Hogan and Sefularo. The inequalities of the apartheid system, the HIV epidemic and the utterly disastrous reign of Tshabalala-Msimang have left the health system in a parlous state. Hogan's biggest challenges will be to meet the treatment and prevention targets of the HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan, integrate TB and HIV treatment, develop a feasible human resources plan for health workers and undo the considerable legacy of AIDS denialism left by her predecessor. The TAC will do all that it can to assist her and the Department of Health to meet these challenges.
Over two million South Africans died of AIDS during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. At least 300,000 deaths could have been avoided had the president merely met the most basic constitutional requirements. Instead Mbeki and his health minister pursued a policy of politically supported AIDS denialism and undermined the scientific governance of medicine. Many more people would have died had it not been for the campaign for treatment and the independence of our courts, which ultimately forced Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang to implement an HIV treatment plan. We believe that the period of politically supported AIDS denialism has ended with the appointment of the Minister of Health."