AIDS and Power: Why there is no Political Crisis - Yet by Alex de Waal

By Alex de Waal

Why, two decades into the concern, are democratic governments acting so poorly in tackling AIDS in Africa? De Waal argues that current methods are pushed by means of pursuits and frameworks that fail to interact with African societies' resilience and creativity. Already, African groups have confounded a number of the worst predictions of catastrophe. If competently supported, they are going to locate methods of maintaining improvement and democracy in the middle of HIV/AIDS.

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People want to be kept informed about medical, epidemiological and scientific news, which they will then discuss and assess. Dealing with the personal, family and communal impacts is another important topic. High-quality news, analysis and opinion appear to be the best way of breaking down denial, weakening the grip of moral and cosmic metaphor, and promoting public commitment to tackling AIDS. How an informed citizenry then articulates and enforces its demands is a different question. De Waal 03 23/5/06 9:31 am Page 34 3 AIDS Activists: Reformers and Revolutionaries Confrontation and Its Limits On 12 July 2005, demonstrators from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) occupied the hospital in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa to deliver a memorandum to the provincial health administrators.

The most powerful institutions of global governance are physically remote from Africa, but in important ways they have proved to be accessible to African activists. Outside South Africa, national governments, the classic focus for human rights critique and activist rage, have somehow been spared. How did this happen? The answer has the following parts. It begins with the synergy between human rights activism and public health in the response to AIDS, beginning in America and developing in Africa.

The President’s State of the Nation speech in February 2004 lacked any sense of urgency over AIDS. 16 After the election, President Mbeki’s inaugural speech on 27 April again failed to mention HIV/AIDS in a meaningful way. AIDS appears to have mattered enough to make the government adjust its course, but not enough to make it reverse direction. Mbeki read the political mood correctly, and it didn’t change the electoral result. Zackie read the political mood equally astutely. TAC did not call on its members to boycott the election or vote against ANC candidates.

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