Melbourne, 3 March 1988
Radical Women is an international socialist feminist organisation comprised of women workers, students and welfare recipients of many races, both gay and straight, older and young. We are pleased to be represented here this evening and are delighted that we could help build this important rally.
We demand that all people have full access to a free quality healthcare system. We have had a gutful of capitalism’s scrimping and saving at the cost of our health and the cost of our lives. This is essentially what the issue of access to supplies of AZT is all about. We join with everyone present here this evening to demand that all people who can benefit from AZT and who wish to use the drug be guaranteed a consistent supply. We don’t want to hear any more whingeing from Wellcome Australia about how they can’t make an adequate profit from the drug if they reduce the price. If Wellcome won’t do it, then supplying AZT should be nationalised! We’re sure Wellcome will be shouting long and loud about their patents if that should happen.
Radical Women is angry that most oppressed in our society are paying for the inadequate healthcare system with our very lives. Although the government has been forced to put some resources into funding gay community health organisations, these bodies have to run on a shoestring and with huge amounts of volunteer labour. That AIDS organisations do not yet know their 1987/88 budgets is disgrace. Workers’ health centres, community clinics and women’s services suffer a similar fate. Mammograms that can be used to screen women for signs of breast cancer are extremely expensive to have done and are not even covered by Medicare! Women still die of cervical cancer, when putting more resources into culturally appropriate education and screening could make almost all of these deaths preventable. The whole Workcare system is facing a sustained barrage of attacks, while workers are getting sick and being injured and killed at work as the system tries to squeeze the last drop of blood out of us through “productivity deals.” The health of Aboriginal people in this country is a national disgrace: life expectancy is low and the infant mortality rate is huge, trachoma — a completely preventable eye disease — is running rife, and some still suffer from leprosy! Kids from poor families have their decaying teeth drop out because they can’t afford to go to a dentist, while the school dental service has been cut back.
Are we supposed to believe that society cannot afford to look after our health and that prevention is a luxury? Surely not, when the Collins Street practitioners are getting rich working a few short hours in a week, and when the drug companies are making millions peddling Valium, Serapax and Bex powders to help us forget our woes.
A stable supply of AZT to any person who can benefit from its use is a must. And one of the best ways to ensure this goal is to make links with all of the other oppressed people who are being forced to pay for the crisis of capitalism with our health. We must unite and shout the message loud and clear that we are not going to take it, we are fighting back!