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South African AIDS Panel Report
      #17257 - 04/08/01 03:36 PM

Click to view the South African AIDS Panel Report

The South African government is currently confronted with the challenge of responding to the growing AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic. The government’s response has been characterised in the main by a prevention strategy, supported by a multi-sectoral programme involving partnerships between government departments, civil society, NGOs (non-government organisations) as well as other sectors like the women’s sector, faith-based organisations, the youth, traditional healers and traditional leaders.

The nature of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa in general, has been a growing cause for concern and recent developments in several areas of the response have created a need to evaluate some of the interventions. It is also an established fact that the determinants of the epidemic and some of the factors that continue to fuel it lie outside the health sector. The strategies adopted by the South African government for an effective response to this challenge have incorporated this reality.

Early in 2000, the South African government posed pertinent questions on several key issues relating to this epidemic. Among these were questions relating to the accuracy of the tests currently used to make the diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; the impact of poverty and malnutrition on the ability of people to respond to this infection; and the relationship between HIV infection and many other infections which are common in Africa such as Tuberculosis (TB), malaria, hepatitis as well as other parasitic infections.

Discussions among officials of the South African National Department of Health (NDOH), local and international experts in the fields of AIDS and HIV yielded a variety of differing and consensual views on some of the matters. Opinions on some of the pertinent issues were so diverse that it seemed important to interrogate these in an open debate. The South African government became aware of divergent views on the existence, detection and actions of the 'primary' aetiological agent for AIDS, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Theories were being advanced to explain causes of AIDS other than HIV infection. Views were also expressed which doubt the accuracy of the data upon which the extent of the disease in South Africa, as well as globally, is being assessed. In fact, some of these views questioned the authenticity of the claim that an AIDS epidemic exists at all in South Africa.

In order to gain a full knowledge of AIDS, a decision was taken to invite an international panel of experts to South Africa and provide a platform for them to deliberate on the issues pertaining to the subject. The report of such deliberations will be used to inform and advise the government as to the most appropriate course of action to follow in dealing with AIDS. This decision was endorsed by the Cabinet of the South African government in April 2000. A world-wide search took place to identify eminent specialists in the fields of AIDS and HIV, ranging in scope from basic scientists, physicians, historians, economists, public health professionals as well as policy makers. It was also decided that persons living with AIDS, as well as lay persons would be invited to serve on the panel.

Composition of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel
Both local and international scientists were invited to form part of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel. They were:

Invited by the President and were present at both meetings

Professor Salim S Abdool-Karim

Dr Stefano M Bertozzi

Dr Harvey Bialy

Dr Awa Marie Coll-Seck

Dr Etienne de Harven

Dr Ann Duerr

Professor Peter Duesberg

Dr Christian Fiala

Dr Helene Gayle

Dr Roberto A Giraldo

Dr ET Katabira

Dr Claus Koehnlein

Dr Manu VL Kothari

Dr Clifford Lane

Dr Marsha Lillie-Blanton

Dr Malegapuru W Makgoba

Professor Sam Mhlongo

Professor Ephraim Mokgokong

Professor Stephen Owen

Dr Jorge Perez

Dr David Rasnick

Mr David Scondras

Dr Joseph Sonnabend

Dr Zena Stein

Dr Gordon Stewart

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