The 6th South African AIDS Conference opened last night in Durban. Sifiso Nkala of the TAC took the stage and accepted the Dira Sengwe Leadership Award on behalf of the TAC. The award “recognises ethical beacons and leaders in AIDS” and was awarded to the TAC in recognition of its critical role in the HIV movement since its inception.

The conference, as the HIV movement more broadly, must be led by the people for whom the ideas and decisions discussed at it mean the most – people living with HIV, yet Sifiso was the only person openly living with HIV to share the stage at the opening ceremony. In the tradition of TAC activism, Sifiso took the opportunity of TAC’s receipt of the award to address the conference audience of around 2500 on the challenges that cripple the health system, cost lives and show that the end of AIDS is not so near as some would have us believe.

Sifiso shared the stage with Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who spoke on youth, the need for increased testing and treatment especially in men and the burden of disease in South Africa. Other plenary session speakers were Advocate Mabedle Mushwana, Chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, who gave the Nkosi Johnson Memorial Lecture; Prof Sheila Tlou, the Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa, who gave remarks from the UNAIDS perspective and noted the important role of civil society in the HIV movement; and Dr. Kevin De Cock, Director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Kenya, who delivered a lecture titled “Toward the end of AIDS” in which he discussed some of the barriers that make that goal illusive.

SANAC gave the final address. Youth activists, the TAC and partners gathered on the floor of the plenary and held a silent protest to bring attention to issues such as violence against women, LGBT rights and stockouts of essential medicines.

Sifiso’s address to the conference is attached. Treatment-Action-Campaign-and-S27-Statement-on-the-6th-South-African-AIDS-Conference