- The South African AIDS actionist group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. TAC is nominated together with its founder and leader, Adurrazack (Zackie) Achmat, a South African Muslim who earlier had founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality.
TAC and Mr Achmat are nominated for the Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which is a humanitarian organisation run by the Quaker (Christian) religious group. Only Parliamentarians and former Nobel Peace Prize winner are enabled to make nominations, and AFSC had won the Prize in 1947.
The South African activists are nominated for their tireless fight for the rights of HIV infected in South Africa. TAC under the leadership of 40-year old Mr Achmat has demanded that people with HIV/AIDS get a government-sponsored treatment - a fight that only last month brought victory.
The global AIDS epidemic "constitutes a grave threat to peace and security, a threat now recognised by the global community," AFSC says in a statement.
This is particularly true in Southern Africa, where HIV prevalence locally reaches 40 percent of the adult population and AIDS threatens the survival of entire societies. This threat has been the foundation of AFSC's nomination of the South African AIDS activists that are making international headlines.
With its nomination, the Quaker organisation paid tribute to TAC as "a non-violent, grassroots organisation that works to raise public awareness and understanding of the issues that surround the availability, affordability, and use of HIV treatments."
- Through mass mobilisation, civil disobedience, legal action, extraordinary personal sacrifice, and visionary leadership, Zackie Achmat and TAC have helped to galvanise a global movement to provide hope and gain access to treatment for those with HIV/AIDS, AFSC says.
Mr Achmat was born in Johannesburg and raised in a Muslim community in Cape Town. Because of his activism in the anti-apartheid struggle which led to him being jailed five times by age 18, Mr Achmat never completed high school.
He founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality, an organisation that brought several landmark cases to the Constitutional Court. He was director of the AIDS Law Project before he founded the TAC in 1998. Although he is HIV positive, Mr Achmat has refused to take certain treatment drugs until they were accessible to all South Africans.
The AFSC nomination letter states: "When treatment is available, there is a greater incentive for people to discover their HIV status through voluntary testing. Once people know their status, they are more likely to avoid risky behaviour and to seek treatment when needed. And, perhaps most important, treatment provides hope, the most powerful antidote to the HIV/AIDS-related stigma."
According to AFSC, the efforts of Mr Achmat and TAC have already led to dramatic reductions in the price of antiretrovirals and other essential drugs "through voluntary price cuts by pharmaceutical manufacturers and the acceptance of generics."
AFSC's nomination also cites the work of Mr Achmat and TAC in helping create public awareness that treatment for HIV/AIDS exists: "Before they began their efforts, most South Africans did not know that there was such treatment, believing that infection meant certain death." This had now changed.
TAC has already been congratulated on the nomination from a variety of people and organisations. The German organisation Bread for the World, which works together with TAC, today expressed its "joy". Also many gay activists have already celebrated the great honour for Mr Achmat.
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