AIDS activists from 22 countries joined Thursday in Cape Town, South Africa, to create a new Pan-African drive to battle the epidemic and secure treatment for millions of patients. "All of us are trying to prevent a holocaust against poor people," said Zackie Achmat, chair of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, which helped coordinate the three-day gathering of about 60 activists. "HIV shows that the rich will live, but the poor will die," Achmat said.
The meeting aimed to establish the foundations for a pan-African activists' movement to fight for access to affordable AIDS medicine and to create an African voice to talk to international organizations about the AIDS crisis. The gathering came ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held this week in Johannesburg, where global leaders will discuss ways of alleviating poverty and extending access to basic services without further depleting the world's resources. The activists plan to draft a set of resolutions to submit to the summit. They also are evaluating plans for joint protests and education campaigns. An estimated 70% of the world's 40 million people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.