by Henry neondo

US' largest AIDS group outraged over shooting of 10 peaceful South African AIDS activists during protest for treatment access

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the US' largest AIDS organization which operates AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Central America and India including the Ithembalabantu (Zulu for "people's hope") Clinic in South Africa, yesterday expressed its profound outrage over the unprovoked attack-including what is believed to be the first-ever police shooting of AIDS protesters anywhere worldwide-by South African police on AIDS activists conducting a peaceful protest.

In a press release sent to media houses across the world, the Los Angels based group said "We completely condemn this unprecedented and violent police action against the people of South Africa who were simply asking for life-saving AIDS treatment,".

According to Michael Weinstein, AHF's President in a statement from London, added that ass the only American anti-retroviral treatment provider operating in South Africa for nearly four years, AHF knows firsthand that treatment equals life-and treatment successes-are indeed possible.

Protesters were demonstrating to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS receive antiretroviral treatment at a Queenstown hospital and throughout the Eastern Cape region in South Africa.

On July 12, the South African Police Services in Queenstown brutally assaulted and then opened fire on unarmed, peaceful protesters from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) asking for HIV treatment.

Forty people were injured and ten were treated for rubber bullet wounds- a shocking display of police brutality believed to be a first in the 25-year history of AIDS activism and advocacy.

According to a press statement from South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), "Forty people were injured and ten were treated for gunshot wounds. One person, Pumla Xesha had to be admitted to hospital.

At least ten of the injured people were people who live openly with HIV/AIDS. The majority of the protesters were women. At no stage was there violence, threat of violence or any form of provocation.

No warning to disperse was issued as is required by law. After the assault, as people ran away, the police opened fire with firearms and then used teargas."

The Eastern Cape Treatment Access Campaign office and other activists had organized the protest after more than six months of unsuccessful negotiations with the provincial and local health authorities on several treatment access issues.

"AHF stands in solidarity with TAC and all treatment activists in South Africa in the fight for access to AIDS care and ARV treatment as a basic human right," added AHF's Weinstein.

AHF currently treats more than 1,000 people with life-saving treatment at its Ithembalabantu Clinic in Umlazi Township, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

"More than 21 percent of all South African adults are now infected with HIV. AHF is ready and willing to work together to expand access to life-saving treatment and to help in any way we can."

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