So I can’t believe I’ve been so self-obsessed this week while such great theatrics have being taking place in Toronto.
The stage: International AIDS Conference: the largest global gathering of international agencies, healthcare professionals, researchers, community and funding organisations working in the field of HIV and AIDS.
The Protagonist: My dear Manto, or now apparently better known as “Dr Beetroot”.
“I don’t mind to be called ‘Dr Beetroot’ ” she said, to cheers and applause from the assembled guests.
Other Main Actors:
Khomanani: This is the government’s AIDS Awareness Campaign. Therefore, this SHOULD mean Manto is an integral point in and proud of this campaign. Khomanani does do EXCELLENT work; creating such campaigns as “Take Your Relationship To The Next Level” & through Community Action where over a thousand volunteers, who give up their time & energy for little to no money, go into communities and talk to people directly about HIV/AIDS.
Treatment Action Campaign (TAC): The world’s largest AIDS Activist group. They are fighting for as many people as possible to be on medical treatment as soon possible.
Initially dear Manto did not even want Khomanani to exhibit at the conference, IF rumours are anything to go by. Eventually they were able to, and a breeze over their website details their exhibition plans: CHANGING BEHAVIOUR THROUGH INNOVATIVE MULTI-MEDIA MESSAGING
“Printed and electronic materials produced by the Health Department through Khomanani will be among the exhibits, as well as the popular - and internationally recognised - government condom brand, Choice.”
Anyone notice the lack of words such as “beetroot”, “garlic” and “lemon”.
Now rumour continues that our protagonist checked out the exhibit just before the conference, while still here in SA, and threw a fit, shouting for her favourite veggies to be on display ("It is a pity that she keeps mistaking a deadly disease for a Norwegian Salmon") . She is technically their top boss, or so I understand, and so they had to abide by her ranting wishes. And so began the theatrics.
"It's despicable that you (members of the Khomanani communications campaign) bow to the minister's wishes and put the exhibit together in such a way." Said Dr Harry Moultrie of the paediatric Aids clinic at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.
The TAC then apparently went forward in trashing the stand; “vandalising of the garlic, lemon and beetroot-stocked South African exhibit… A group of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists occupied the stall, with some lying on the ground to symbolise the dead. "Fire Manto now," they chanted as passersby gathered to see what was going on.”
Manto made her speech in front of the “stand of garlic” and is now claiming that SA had forced the world to acknowledge the importance of nutrition in the fight against the disease. She said: “Nobody wanted to hear anything about nutrition. But today, it’s the theme of the conference and that’s SA’s (influence).” [Absolute rubbish!!! Nobody denies the importance of nutrition, but it is not a substitute to ARVs or the Be All & End All to surviving HIV, & nutrition involves a healthy diet, not a diet of select foods].
Also…. Although the conference has several sessions devoted to nutrition, it was not a theme on any particular day.
Khomanani project co-ordinator Karabo Moraka who was manning the stall, said the protesters were "misguided", however it was their constitutional right to demonstrate.
And so here this Khomanani Campaign sits, without a next tender (for which there is NO valid reason as yet but pure slackness!), and after all their hard work and dedication, their boss tells them they are missing the point and they need to focus on unscientific divergent views, the largest and highly respected AIDS activist group destroys their material and their reputation, and the whole world watches going “What the hell is going on over there in the South of Africa?!?”
The TAC & the AIDS Law Project (ALP) are publicly calling for Dr Beetroot’s resignation. I would like to add my voice to this call as, to quote Mark Heywood of ALP,
“"I say that not because I am disloyal, but because I am loyal to these people ... that are dying this minute in poor communities and being deprived of medical services. That is a human rights violation and it has to be stopped, and you have to help us stop it."
P.S. Man, I have to start making my posts shorter!