South African civil disobedience campaign to begin Friday

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 21 2003 1:00 AM ET

The South Africa-based AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign announced Wednesday that a weeklong national civil disobedience campaign in protest of the country's AIDS policies would begin on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reports. The activists are protesting the government's refusal to provide anti-HIV medications to the more than 4 million HIV-positive residents of the country. The Congress of South African Trade Unions is also considering taking part in the weeklong series of protests.

TAC hopes the protests will prompt government leaders to establish a framework for a national treatment program. TAC members say they expect that up to 600 AIDS activists will be arrested during the civil disobedience campaign.

Government officials say they are still studying the feasibility of providing anti-HIV drugs in the country. "There is no need for anyone to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience," said government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe. But a TAC spokesman said the government needs to respond more quickly to the activists' demands. "It is impossible to take on faith when the government says to just be patient," he said.