South Africa: Mbeki addresses his AIDS stance

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) – Former president Thabo Mbeki on Monday sparked another storm of controversy by addressing his "HIV denialism", an issue that clouded his term in office and political legacy.

In the latest of a series of weekly newsletter which are intended to “set the record straight” about his administration, Mbeki claimed that, "I never said that HIV does not cause AIDS”, adding that the false accusation was made by people who benefitted from trumpeting the slogan "HIV causes Aids".  "What I said is that a virus cannot cause a syndrome," Mbeki said.

When the first International Conference for People Living with HIV and AIDS was held in South Africa in 1995, Mbeki – who was Deputy President – acknowledged the seriousness of the epidemic. However, after becoming President in 1999, his views changed dramatically and he began to endorse the views of a small minority of eminent scientists who claimed that AIDS was not caused by HIV. These included Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis.

In 2000, at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, Mbeki made a speech that attracted much criticism in that he avoided references to HIV and instead focused mainly on poverty as a powerful co-factor in AIDS diagnosis.

His administration was repeatedly accused of failing to respond adequately to the AIDS epidemic. The New York Times in 2008 reported that due to Mbeki's rejection of scientific consensus on AIDS and his embrace of AIDS denialism, an estimated 365,000 people had died in South Africa.

In his newsletter, Mbeki points out that AIDS is an acronym for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. “Therefore, AIDS is a syndrome, i.e. a collection of well-known diseases, with well-known causes. They are not, together, caused and cannot be caused by one virus.” Mbeki said in 2006 that HIV was the ninth leading cause of death in South Africa, while tuberculosis was at the top.

"I am convinced that it would be perfectly understandable that the normal, thinking African would ask the questions: Why did it come about that so much noise was made internationally about the ninth leading cause of death in our country, with not even so much as a whimper about the first leading cause of death, tuberculosis?"
-0- PANA CU/MA 7March2016

07 march 2016 11:38:35




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