amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Awards of Courage

Zackie Achmat

Honoring with Pride 2004 Honoree


Zackie AchmatAdurrazack “Zackie” Achmat lives with HIV/AIDS, and for most of his life he has been a political activist. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1962, he is a member of the African National Congress (ANC), a founder of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE), a former director of the AIDS Law Project, a founder of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and, together with other members of TAC, is now a nominee for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Achmat became involved in political activism at the age of 14, when he was a leader of the 1976 anti-apartheid school boycotts. Although detained and imprisoned several times, he continued to work to establish youth, labour, health, and community organizations for the next decade and more. During the 1990s, recognizing that the human rights called for by a new South African constitution were not automatic, he led the NCGLE in campaigns to champion equal rights for gay and lesbian relationships, to ensure the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and to decriminalize same-sex practices. Then, as director of the AIDS Law Project, he took that organization to the forefront of a nationwide struggle against the abuse and violation of the human rights of people with HIV/AIDS.

In December 1998, Mr. Achmat and ten other activists launched TAC, which immediately took a stand against the pharmaceutical companies whose drug pricing made it impossible for lifesaving treatments to be brought into South Africa. TAC opposed the government’s dogged denial that HIV causes AIDS, and it campaigned and sued for the right of pregnant women with HIV/AIDS to have access to AZT/Nevirapine. TAC prevailed.

Zackie Achmat has a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Western Cape and is studying to complete a master’s in law at the University of Cape Town. Cape Town has already awarded him an honorary master’s degree, and the University of Natal has awarded him an honorary doctorate. In addition, Mr. Achmat has received numerous other honors, including the first Desmond Tutu Fellowship, the Jonathan Mann Award, and the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. He is also the researcher, writer, and director of several documentary films.