Struggle against HIV continues

Mark Heywood is the guest in my column for today. He writes as a follow-up to my column last week.

Mark Heywood is the guest in my column for today. He writes as a follow-up to my column last week.

LAST week Lucky Mazibuko wrote a tribute to the Aids Law Project and its staff, but lamented that we are closing our door "prematurely".

He rightly pointed out that discrimination against people living with HIV continues and that there is still a need for a "powerful and learned shoulder to cry on".

The ALP has recently incorporated itself into a new organisation we have established called Section 27. It refers to the section in the Constitution of South Africa that gives everyone a right of access to healthcare services and spells out what steps the government must take to fulfil this right.

We have formed Section 27 because we want to use the law to pressure the government and the private health sector to work together to fund our health services properly, make sure they are clean and safe and that there are enough doctors and nurses in our hospitals and clinics.

Our work as the ALP proved that the law can work for people with HIV. Now we want to make it work for all people in need of healthcare.

We have not turned our back on the problem of HIV-related discrimination. On an almost daily basis we get reports of people being refused jobs, medical care or other services because they have HIV. We hear about people being victimised and insulted. But unlike when the ALP was formed in 1993, there are now many laws and legal organisations that aim to protect the rights of people with HIV.

We have formed a network of these organisations. Calls that we receive asking for help are either referred to other legal organisations, or taken up directly by ourselves. Nobody is left without help.

Similarly, unlike in 1993, there are also powerful organisations of people living with HIV that campaign to protect rights and provide advice and support to people with HIV. The most obvious is the Treatment Action Campaign, but there is also an organisation called the Positive Convention, being set up by Pholokgolo Ramothwala, another young hero who lives openly with HIV and is determined to help others.

So, we are not going away. We will not give up on this struggle. The fight to advance human rights and prevent discrimination remains at the heart of our mission.

To find out more about our work at Section 27 visit our website at

lHeywood is the deputy chairperson of South African National Aids Council