[Marxism] The Man who took on Mbeki - and won
Louis R Godena
louisgodena at ids.net
Thu Nov 30 18:59:20 MST 2006
Zackie's story: The man who took on Mbeki - and won
South Africa's record in dealing with its Aids epidemic is arguably the worst in the world. But that's now changing, thanks to one dedicated campaigner. John Carlin reports from Cape Town
Zackie Achmat was raised in a conservative Muslim family but when he was 14 years old he left home, burnt down his school and, for a brief while, sold his body for sex. A homosexual, an atheist and a militant anti-apartheid campaigner whose political ideas were forged on an intense reading of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, he was diagnosed with the Aids virus in his late twenties and founded his country's first gay and lesbian rights movement. His father went to his grave hating him; his mother never got over the shame.
But today, in the country worst hit by Aids, Zackie Achmat is a national hero. Nelson Mandela himself has described him as such. Because there is no individual in South Africa, or anywhere else, quite probably, who has dedicated more time and energy more selflessly to the war against Aids; who has sacrificed so much for so many.
Achmat, born in 1962, evokes similar admiration outside his country and is recognised by Aids campaigners everywhere as an emblem of the global fight against a disease that affects 39.5 million people, according to the latest UN figures - 4.3 million more than at the end of 2005. Achmat, who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize, recently addressed the World Bank in Washington, where he argued that combating Aids should be a priority not only for the countries worst-hit - or big countries at risk of a pandemic like China, India and Russia - but a shared global responsibility. The rich countries that have largely inured themselves against the worst effects of the virus must get stuck in too. They must provide political and economic support commensurate with the scale of the catastrophe, he said, because not to do so - in a world of ever more porous borders - will impact adversely on the wealth and security of all.
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