The Treatment Action Campaign's Quest for Equality in HIV and Health: Learning from and Lessons for the Trade Union Movement


  • Mark Heywood Section 27



The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has been recognised as one of the most effective social movements in post-apartheid South Africa. Among other things, it is responsible for the world’s largest programme to provide anti-retroviral treatment to people with HIV through the public health system. This article looks at the lessons TAC learned from the trade union movement as it sought to build a mass movement of the poor around the human right to access essential medicines for millions of people infected with HIV. It explores how TAC sought to build an alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliates, and the vital role that an independent COSATU played in supporting AIDS activism and using its social weight to support campaigns for AIDS treatment. Finally it looks at what trade unions can learn from social movements and explains why an effective alliance between unions and social movements is so essential for pro-poor reform in the twenty-first century.