Mbeki under fire again for AIDS comments

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- South Africa's official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said the country's fight against AIDS took another step backwards on Wednesday when President Thabo Mbeki again expressed doubts about the existence of the epidemic.
Mbeki who addressed a National Press Club luncheon in Washington D.
C, again refused to link HIV with AIDS, but said his personal belief is not relevant to a scientific fact.
Mbeki received enormous criticism more than a year ago when he asked a group of scientists to investigate whether there is a connection between HIV and AIDS.
The DA said it is appalled that Mbeki appears unable to foresee the disastrous consequences of his message.
"The AIDS virus thrives in an environment of ignorance and denial.
Health care workers attest that denial of AIDS is chillingly common in South Africa, to the extent that already seriously ill patients will deny they are sick, and orphans say that their parents were removed by witchcraft.
"There is no doubt that the denial factor is responsible for many of the estimated 1600 new infections in South Africa every day," said DA spokesman Dr Kobus Gous.
He said Mbeki's top priority should be to work at eliminating the myths and legends that provide the sustenance for the AIDS virus in South Africa.
"Instead, he is compounding them.
Suggesting that the virus might not exist gives South Africans vulnerable to HV infection a license to sign their own death warrants.
"It also makes the dedicated efforts of AIDS organisations even more of an uphill battle.
Confusion about AIDS is the single biggest reason for South Africa's failure to get to grips with this epidemic.
"Prevention programmes are working where there is strong and committed leadership.
If the President still has doubts about the AIDS virus, he should keep them to himself.
"To do otherwise is to abuse the trust that the voters have placed in him," Gous added.

28 june 2001 18:08:00

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