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NZAF condemns police shooting at peaceful protest

Press release: Monday 18 July 2005

NZAF condemns police shooting at peaceful HIV/AIDS treatments access protest

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation has today called for international condemnation of the shooting and injuring by South African police of 40 people engaged in a peaceful protest demanding fair access to HIV treatment on 12 July.

The Foundation has received information that members and supporters of the South African group TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) had organised the peaceful protest, comprised largely of women, after being frustrated by a lack of official action on getting anti-retroviral HIV treatment to those who need it in Queenstown and the Eastern Cape area of South Africa, home of South African President Mbeki. The TAC says that the Frontier Hospital in Queenstown serves a population of some 220,000 people of whom it is estimated at least 2000 need HIV treatment, but fewer than 200 actually receive it.

The report from TAC said that at no stage of the protest was there violence, the threat of violence or any form of provocation and that the police gave no warning to disperse before brutally assaulting protest participants and then opening fire with firearms and teargas as the crowd began to run away. Forty protestors were injured, at least ten of whom were people who live openly with HIV/AIDS.

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation will lodge a strong protest at this inhumane treatment of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS with the South African High Commission and urges the Government of New Zealand to make a similar protest at diplomatic levels.

“The beating and shooting by Government agents (the police) of people living with HIV/AIDS engaged in a peaceful protest should engender as much disgust and condemnation at that already being targeted at President Mugabe for his slum clearance programme in Zimbabwe,” said Foundation Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier.

“We call upon the South African Government to immediately launch an inquiry into this incident and to condemn this unprovoked police action. The Foundation also supports the TAC campaign for fair, and equitable access to HIV information and treatment for all South Africans.”

ENDS

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