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Human Rights Award 2009

TAC - Treatment Action Campaign, Capetown / South Africa

Political context

With approximately 5.7 million people infected with HIV, South Africa is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in the world. Because the topic of Aids was publicly taboo in South Africa for a long time, no real efforts were made to inform people or provide medical care to the ill for many years. Around 20 percent of the population is infected with the HI virus at present. Women are disproportionately affected. The infection rate among newborn infants is also appallingly high, while the number of Aids orphans is mounting day by day.

Human rights play a crucial role in the fight against HIV/Aids. The spread of the pandemic is frequently the result of widespread violations of economic, social and cultural, but also civil and political rights. The immune-deficiency illness can spread very quickly in an environment beset by a weak economy, widespread undernutrition or an insufficient health and education system. Groups of people who are stigmatised or marginalised in a society are particularly susceptible to HIV/Aids. By the same time token, the illness often paves the way for further violations of human rights – for example, through exclusion of and discrimination against infected persons and their family members or through the deficient supply of medical care.

Article 25 of the General Declaration of Human Rights lays down the right to a reasonable standard of living which guarantees each individual health and well-being. Article 12 of the UN Social Covenant also enshrines the right to the best possible physical and mental health and the right to medical care for each and every individual. This means among other things the right to medical advice, the right to benefit from advances in science with regard to the prevention of diseases, the promotion of health, diagnosis and treatment and the right to information on the course of a disease and possibilities for medical treatment.

The non-governmental organisation TAC (Treatment Action Campaign), which was founded in Capetown on 10th December 1998, works to ensure the rights of people infected with HIV/Aids are asserted and satisfied in South Africa.

The Award winner

The presentation of the Human Rights Award of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to the non-governmental organisation TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) recognises the merits of an organisation which has made a special commitment to the defence of the human right to health in its country, South Africa.

The TAC has been working for more than ten years now with approximately 16,000 voluntary and 72 full-time staff members at 267 branch offices in South Africa for people infected with HIV, counselling, informing, raising awareness and fighting with a special commitment for equal access to an efficient health system. The organisation has always shown courage in facing the challenges in its struggle against the immune-deficiency disease while at the same time asserting the basic human right to health and well-being in no uncertain terms – including in the face of the official policy of the ANC government at the time.

The TAC is thus not only a symbol of the self-help potential offered by civil society, but also of a thriving democratic culture through involvement in politics. The initiative illustrates the presence of a vibrant, lively civil society in South Africa making an important contribution to democratisation.

Press reviews:
Listen to interview with TAC chairwoman Nonkosi Khumalo (11min38, mp3) Listen to interview with eulogist Herta Däubler-Gmelin (7min42, mp3) Statement by Treatment Action Campaign Statement by Oxfam Annie Lennox on the Human Rights Award for TAC
go to picture gallery Additional information Programme Panel Discussion and Award Ceremony on Dec. 10, 2009 Reasons for the nomination of the TAC for the Human Rights Award - Official website of the TAC in South Africa - Website of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung South Africa Office Publications of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Generation Aids - 25 Jahre nach der ersten Diagnose : eine Konferenz von Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung und UNICEF, Berlin, 10. Oktober 2006, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Red.: Uwe Kerkow, Bonn: 2007 (in German) Publication in PDF format Kurzschlussreaktion oder Kurswechsel? : Umschwung in der südafrikanischen AIDS-Politik, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Büro Südafrika, Red.: Jérôme Cholet, Johannesburg: 2006 (in German) Publication in PDF format Fokus Südafrika : Publikation für Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft in Südafrika, Übersicht der Ausgaben 2006-2009, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Büro Südafrika, Johannesburg (in German) Link to issues 2006-2009 Link to additional publications Concerning the topic HIV / Aids