AIDS Law Project relaunches with broader focus

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AIDS Law Project relaunches with broader focus

When HIV positive prisoners at Westville Prison started dying because government did not have a proper treatment plan for them, they turned to the AIDS Law Project (ALP).

When the SA National Defence Force refused to employ HIV positive people, the ALP took the SANDF on and won.

The ALP also assisted to secure cheaper medicine prices by helping in the government¡¯s case against the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

Over the years since its launch in 1993, the ALP has become synonymous with legal activism aimed at protecting people living with HIV/AIDS. A cornerstone of its success has been its close partnership with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which mobilised ordinary people to fight for the rights of people with HIV.

But today (Friday 7 May) the ALP will cease to exist. Instead it will become part of Section27, a non-profit organisation that will focus on all ¡°the socio©\economic conditions that undermine human dignity and development, prevent poor people from reaching their full potential and lead to the spread of diseases that have a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable and marginalised¡±.

Section27 gets its name from the section in the country¡¯s Constitution that states everyone has the right to access to health care services, enough food and water and social security.

In a fitting start, the organisation faces a potential legal battle over the right to use the name, Section27 as the Companies and Intellectual Properties Registration Organisation (CIPRO) claims that this name is the preserve of government only.
According to a letter from CIPRO, the name ¡°connote (sic) governmental patronage. The wording employed to serve as a name cannot be allowed and are calculated to cause damage moreover misleading and undesirable" (errors in original) and that a clause in the Constitution is ¡°a government issue¡±.

Director Mark Heywood explains that the change: ¡°To sustain the response to HIV, reduce new infections and ensure sustained access to treatment, it is necessary to campaign for equity, equality and quality in the health system.¡±

Head of litigation services Adila Hassan says the new organisation will still focus on HIV/AIDS but also on the ¡°underlying determinants of health, and to do this we will be focusing on education and sufficient food as two such determinants¡±.

Section27 will also ¡°defend the Constitution and its foundational values and fundamental rights from attack ¨C for instance, by seeking to ensure the independence of

the judiciary,¡± adds Heywood.

The creation of Section27 is part of a post-Mbeki realignment in the AIDS sector from focusing solely on HIV/AIDS to addressing the social determinants of health.

The ALP¡¯s closest ally, the TAC has also moved from focusing just on HIV treatment to on tuberculosis and health services. Section27 will also form a partnership with a new organisation, Equal Education, which is leading the national campaign for all schools to have libraries.

The new organised will be launched by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Friday (7 May) at the end of a two-day conference aimed at discussing how the law can be used as a tool for social justice struggles.

Heywood says over the next five years, Section27 will focus on five goals:

* Implementation of key aspects of the NSP,
* Reform of the public and private health systems as part of achieving a sustained NHI
* Improved access to food and basic education, the key determinants of health
* Regulation of power, including more effective parliamentary oversight over the Executive and
* The promotion of human rights regionally and internationally.

Those serving on Section27¡¯s board include TAC general secretary Vuyiseka Dubula (chairperson), former Constitutional Court judge Johann Kriegler and Cosatu national organiser Theo Steele.

Source: Health-e News

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