One of the great, iconic struggles for social justice in the 21st century has been the campaign of the TAC against state-supported AIDS denialism in South Africa.
One of the great, iconic struggles for social justice in the 21st century has been the campaign of the TAC against state-supported AIDS denialism in South Africa. This struggle between activists, scientists and health workers, on the one hand, and a strange alliance of dissidents, quacks and political leaders, on the other, is here recounted in absorbing and dramatic detail for the first time by an insider. In his book, Nathan Geffen, one of the TAC leaders, describes how early on in its life the organisation discovered that the greatest obstacle to AIDS treatment was in fact the South African government's denialism. Not only did this extend to a reluctance to provide antiretroviral treatment to AIDS patients but also to the support of a host of quacks and denialists who operated freely in the country to sow suspicion and confusion about the efficacy of standard medical treatment of AIDS. The most notorious of these were the German vitamin seller, Dr Matthias Rath, who along the way sued The Guardian of London and lost his case, and the Dutch nurse Tine van der Maas. It was the TAC that, as a result of a court case it brought against Rath, managed to stop his operations in South Africa; and it was the TAC, once again through legal means, that put pressure on the South African government to roll out an antiretroviral programme throughout the country. Geffen describes not only the TAC's response to the puzzling intransigence of government and the spellbinding nonsense of dissidents, but the thought, strategy and discussion that lay behind the organisation's major decisions. The story of the TAC's campaign is one of the great triumphs of citizen activism for social justice and human rights.
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