100 World Class South Africans: Zackie Achmat

2013-07-03 12:00

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Our greatest activist

Fire in the Blood, a documentary screened this January at the Sundance Festival, recounts how pharmaceutical companies and governments prevented the distribution of low-cost Aids drugs, and celebrates those who fought back.

One of these global Aids activists is Zackie Achmat. Zackie started his life of activism from an early age, participating in the 1976 student uprising and being imprisoned more than five times during apartheid. In 1980, while in prison, he joined the ANC.

HIV-positive himself, he made world headlines in the late-90s for refusing to take antiretrovirals until they were cheaply available to other South Africans too.

He co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign in 1998 to facilitate access to these medicines.

In April 2001, when Time.com voted Achmat its Person of the Week, it was following a successful protest: the TAC had urged US vice-president Al Gore to ensure that the White House withdrew its threat of sanctions against SA for importing generic Aids drugs.

Within months, pharmaceutical companies were supplying them at discounts of up to 95%.

This commitment to equality in social access to resources has garnered Achmat much recognition.

His accolades include the 2003 Jonathan Mann Award for global health and human rights and a nomination for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.The ARV battle won, he has now turned his energy to social justice.

As director of Ndifuna Ukwazi (‘Dare to Know’), Achmat’s blood is now fired up by dreams of fair service delivery, safer communities and justice for all .

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