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South African
AIDS activists refuse to join U.N. conference

South African
AIDS activists refuse to join U.N. conference

Sipho Mthathi, general secretary of South Africa's AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign, on Thursday rejected the government's invitation to be part of the nation's official delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in May. "I do not feel that civil society has been adequately respected," said Mthathi, who charged that the health ministry did not invite enough activists to participate.

Last month, TAC blasted health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for refusing to grant it and its affiliated AIDS Law Project credentials to attend the session as nongovernmental organizations. The ministry said it did this because of the organization's history of criticizing the government at public meetings. In revisiting its decision, the ministry invited Mthathi but not Zackie Achmat, TAC's outspoken president.

Earlier this year, TAC had charged that the government's official report for the meeting was prepared without adequate activist input and painted an unrealistically favorable picture of the nation's AIDS epidemic.

"The entire process for selecting and then announcing the delegation has been unsatisfactory," Mthathi wrote in an open letter. "For TAC to now attend within this delegation lends respectability to a process that we feel has mostly been unilateral and nontransparent." (AP)

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