Zackie Achmat and His Queer Revolution

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05/27/2024

For many South Africans, Zackie Achmat is best remembered as the co-founder of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which waged a valiant battle to compel Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS denialist government to provide antiretroviral (ARV) medication to people living with HIV. After coming out as HIV-positive in 1998, Achmat famously vowed not to take ARVs until all South Africans had access to them. (It’s estimated that up to two million South Africans died prematurely of AIDS during the period when the government refused to make antiretrovirals available.) Achmat was already a veteran activist by then, having joined the 1976 student revolt against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black schools at the age of 14. As an openly gay member of the ANC, he fought against apartheid, for which he was tortured, imprisoned, and banned by the government of the day.

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