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Former South African President Blamed for 330,000 HIV/AIDS Deaths
by Newropeans-Magazine
2008-11-18 08:53:22
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Zackie Achmat, a prominent South African AIDS activist has recently blamed the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, for 330,000 HIV/AIDS related deaths in the country.

According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, 330,000 deaths were caused by Mbeki's decision to declare available drugs toxic and dangerous in 1999. The study also found that about 35,000 babies were born HIV-positive between 2000 and 2005.

During most of his presidency, Thabo Mbeki did not believe that HIV causes AIDS. Mbeki viewed AIDS as some kind of a Western conspiracy and "another Western characterization of Africans as promiscuous and Africa as a continent of disease and hopelessness."

In a speech in 2001, Mbeki said that the Western world sees Africans as "promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world… they [the West] proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust."

South Africa is experiencing one of the world’s worst devastations caused by HIV/AIDS epidemic. AIDS is killing about 1,000 people a day in the country where more than five million of people, about 12% of the population, are infected with the virus. More than 2 million people have already died and one in eight of the working-age population is infected with HIV.

AIDS in South Africa is killing parents, teachers, workers, and youth. During an international AIDS conference held in South Africa in 2000, it was estimated that half of country's young people will die of AIDS. According to the 2007 African Union's Peer Review Report, South Africa has "1.2 million AIDS orphans who make up almost 10% of the world's 15 million such children."

In a speech during the international AIDS conference, Nelson Mandela said that "AIDS is currently claiming more lives in Africa than the sum total of all wars, famines and floods, and other deadly diseases… In the face of the great threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people."

Yet in 2006, Thabo Mbeki's health minister displayed lemons, beetroots, and garlic on the South African stand at an international AIDS conference in Canada, promoting nutrition as the best way of treating AIDS. The United Nations special envoy for AIDS in Africa described South African government as "obtuse, dilatory, and negligent about rolling out HIV/AIDS treatment," and that South Africa's AIDS policy is "more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state."

When the deputy health minister questioned the views of Mbeki and the country's health minister on HIV/AIDS in 2007, she was simply fired.

Today, South Africa has a new president and a new health minister. When she was sworn in, the new health minister, Barbara Hogan, admitted she knows that HIV causes AIDS and added that "HIV and AIDS have to be an absolute priority" for the South African government.

Ordinary people get life in jail for killing one person. What should happen to those whose actions and belief cause the deaths of 330,000 people?

Savo Heleta*
Port Elizabeth - South Africa

* Savo Heleta is a postgraduate student in conflict transformation and management at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He is the author of “Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia " -> Visit his blog: http://www.savoheleta.com/.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-11-18 10:05:30
To attempt an answer to the last question: the new president and minister of health ought to prosecute to the full extent of the law and the South African Constitution the violations by their predecessors, if they wish to retain the trust of the people that is. By the way, the same thing ought to happen when the new president of the US takes power. Keep your finger crossed!

Savo Heleta2008-11-19 15:02:23
Emanuel, I completely agree with you in both the South African and American case!

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