ASHLEIGH FURLONG writes: Activists protested against the South African AIDS Council (SANAC) at the opening of the South African AIDS Conference. They held placards reading: ‘No confidence in SANAC’.
The demonstration was held during the opening address by Steve Letsike, who is the leader of SANAC National Civil Society Forum.
The chairman of SANAC, Cyril Ramaphosa, is due to address the conference on Thursday, June 15.
Five civil society organisations released a statement warning that they might withdraw from SANAC. The organisations, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), SECTION27, Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Masithandane End-Hate Crimes Collective, and Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), claimed that SANAC faced a “crisis of governance and legitimacy”.
“In many cases, civil society participation at SANAC has been reduced to irrelevance, with the current SANAC civil society leadership unable and unwilling to criticise any weaknesses of service delivery,” the organisations stated.
They took issue with the five-year National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs which was launched this year. SANAC guides and coordinates the NSP, but the organisations say it “fails to provide the much needed direction and leadership we require”.
They say that the plan contains low targets for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), ignores community healthcare workers, and fails sex workers by not adequately addressing aspects such as decriminalisation.
Noma Rangana, TAC's donor liaison officer, said: “Our most important concerns are around how the organisation works… As an entity that is set up to address concerns on the ground, it is not doing that well. Consultation with structures on the ground is not happening. SANAC is supposed to have various sectors [such as] the youth sector. But the youth have told us that this is non-existent.
“We need young people to represent young people and we do not see those young people operating in those structures [at SANAC],” she said.
SANAC has been asked for comment on the protest. This article will be updated when they respond.