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Sat Jul 23 13:12:31 SAST 2016

Mbeki refuses to back down on 'dissident' HIV/Aids stance

TMG Digital | 14 March, 2016 10:25
Former president Thabo Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki on Monday questioned the amount spent by Government on trying to combat and treat HIV/Aids as opposed to TB - the leading cause of deaths in South Africa.

“What justifies spending 16% of the national health budget on a ‘disease’ which in 2013 accounted for 5% of all deaths?” Mbeki stated.

In his second missive to the nation on the epidemic‚ also questions whether Aids is being racially reported in official records.

He said a Statistics South Africa Report on Mortality in 2013 found that among black Africans “HIV disease” was the second leading cause of death and the sixth for the Coloured population group but no data for white and Indian racial groups as the leading causes of death.

“Why are black Africans unique among all sections of the South African population such that only they die from ‘HIV disease’ as the second leading cause of death‚ accounting for as much as 6‚2% of all black African deaths? Could it be that the reported incidence of ‘HIV disease’ as it appears in ‘death notices’ is informed by various stereotypes that have emerged around the efforts to identify the causes of HIV infection and Aids!” Mbeki said.

He said further: “The nomenclature used by Statssa suggests that there exists a unique disease called ‘HIV disease’ which itself results in other diseases such as the well-known ‘infectious and parasitic diseases’ etc! HIV is a virus‚ not a disease. What then is the suggested unique ‘HIV disease’? Obviously this is not a mistaken reference to AIDS as AIDS is not a disease but a syndrome‚ i.e. a collection of diseases!”

In his letter last Monday‚ Mbeki claimed: “I never said ‘HIV does not cause Aids ’. This false accusation was made by people who benefited from trumpeting the slogan ‘HIV causes Aids ’ as though this was a religious edict. What I said was that ‘a virus cannot cause a syndrome’.”

Professor Salim Abdool Karim‚ the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in SA‚ dismissed Mbeki ’s argument‚ telling The Times that it confirmed the he remained “firmly an Aids dissident” and criticised Mbeki’s belief that “a virus cannot cause a syndrome”.

“He is simply ill-informed and/or is deliberately trying to cloud the facts‚ which are that viruses can cause syndromes; HIV is one such virus that leads to a syndrome‚” said Karim.

In 2014‚ Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi‚ when announcing that an additional 2-million people with HIV would be put on treatment in the next three years‚ said: “People like asking me whether the country can afford it. The answer is: Can we afford not to? Here is a disease that is blocking development in our country and we want to bring it to an end. That means we need to spend money and we will do so”.

About 2.5 million South Africans were already being treated with ARVs that year.

The Rural Health Advocacy Project‚ Daygan Eagar‚ praised the decision‚ noting it was cheaper to treat people with ARVs costing less than R80 a month than to treat them when they were made sick by Aids-related infections.

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