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South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign: Combining Law and Social Mobilization to Realize the Right to Health

By: Mark Heywood

This resource is from the Journal of Human Rights Practice, Volume 1, Number 1, March 2009.

Abstract: This article summarizes the experience and results of a campaign for access to medicines for HIV in South Africa, led by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) between 1998 and 2008. It illustrates how the TAC mobilized people to campaign for the right to health using a combination of human rights education, HIV treatment literacy, demonstration, and litigation. As a result of these campaigns, the TAC was able to reduce the price of medicines, prevent hundreds of thousands of HIV-related deaths, but also to force significant additional resources into the health system and towards the poor. The article asks whether the method of the TAC has a wider application for human rights campaigns and, particularly, whether the protection of the right to health in law, and the obligation that it be progressively realized by the State, provides an opportunity to advance human rights practice.

Keywords: AIDS; health; law; rights