TAC’s fight against folly

2010-06-23 00:00


Debunking Delusions: The Inside Story of the Treatment Action Campaign

Nathan Geffen


IN the early nineties, HIV/Aids in South Africa was a manageable problem mainly confined to a ­distinct sector of the population. Crucially, only one pregnant woman in a hundred was HIV positive; yet ten years later the pandemic had become a national disaster. The reasons for this are complex, bizarrely illustrated by the demented belief of a former KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health that the virus was created as an act of bioterrorism.

What is striking about this book is the extent to which it reflects the best and worst of the old and new South Africas. Nathan Geffen describes how the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) courageously carried on the tradition of civic, grassroots struggle that grew up under apartheid. In a chilling rerun of ­National Party rule, he recounts state-sponsored lawlessness: the government indulged Matthias Rath’s unauthorised medical trials and untested claims about the ­medicinal power of his vitamins.

Geffen expands on these themes in a down-to-earth, easily digestible style interspersed with the odd droll comment. His choicest phrases are reserved for the quacks who latched on to popular distrust of the government health system. This book makes it clear that HIV/Aids in this country is primarily a political problem, although Geffen goes no further than a brief aside about racial nationalism.

Perhaps most disturbing is the ­little-known story of the destruction of the well-run Medicines Control Council (MCC), the purge of its highly ­respected scientific administrators and the proposed Medicines Act that threatens to place clinical trials under political control. This followed the refusal of the MCC to test Virodene, a toxic industrial solvent, seen by some in the ANC as a cure for HIV/Aids.

Studies show that government denialism and incompetence cost over 300 000 lives that could have been saved by a timely roll out of antiretrovirals (ARVs). The survivors have a great deal for which to thank the TAC, and Geffen has written a book worthy of its struggle for social justice.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.