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Hogan appoints TAC activist as AIDS adviser

Resource type: News

Business Day (South Africa) |

Original Source

by Tamar Kahn
Science and Health Editor

CAPE TOWN — In a clear break with the traditions of her predecessor, Health Minister Barbara Hogan has employed prominent AIDS activist Fatima Hassan as an adviser.

Unlike Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who had a frosty relationship with SA’s foremost AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Hogan has had a much more relaxed relationship with the campaigners. So much so that the TAC serenaded Hogan outside her home the night her appointment was made public.

Hassan, who is a member of the TAC, was previously a senior attorney at the AIDS Law Project (ALP). The ALP has worked closely with the TAC on several important court cases, and Hassan was a key player in a wide range of campaigns to improve care for people with HIV, including widening access to treatment and cutting the price of AIDS drugs. More recently she was involved in raising public awareness of the human rights abuses suffered by foreigners who had fallen victim to xenophobic attacks.

Three sources told Business Day yesterday that Hassan began working for Hogan two weeks ago. Hassan referred queries to the health department spokesman Fidel Hadebe who confirmed her appointment.

He indicated by e-mail that Hogan had not retained the services of Tshabalala-Msimang’s special adviser Prof Ronald Green-Thompson, as “his contract was linked to the former minister”. Green-Thompson was previously head of health in KwaZulu-Natal.

It is understood that Hassan is working in a consultant capacity, pending clearance from the National Intelligence Agency, which is required before she can be formally appointed as a special adviser.

In another development underscoring the new political impetus about AIDS since former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled by the African National Congress in September, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) has come out in support of the South African National AIDS Council’s (Sanac’s) plans to launch SA’s first national work stoppage to mark World AIDS Day on December 1. Nedlac has agreed that schools, public institutions, and workplaces should mark the day with a moment’s silence at noon and organise activities to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The United Nations estimates 5,7-million people living in SA have HIV, more than any other country.

Sanac will also use World AIDS Day to launch a campaign to try to reduce cases of mother-to-child transmission. Although the government began providing services that help cut the risk of HIV-positive pregnant women passing the virus on to their babies after a landmark Constitutional Court ruling in 2002, experts estimate that only 30%-40% of HIV-positive pregnant women are getting appropriate care.

The latest government guidelines say women should get a short course of AZT from their 28th week of pregnancy, a single dose of nevirapine during labour, and be offered a caesarean delivery: their babies are given a dose of nevirapine syrup shortly after birth.

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AIDS, AIDS Law Project, ALP, TAC, Treatment Action Campaign