South African President Mbeki Rejects Criticism From Opposition Parties Over AIDS Policies
February 10, 2004
South African President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday rejected criticism of his government's AIDS policies after the opposition Democratic Alliance party on Saturday vowed to make AIDS a central campaign issue in the country's upcoming elections, Reuters reports. Mbeki's African National Congress party is widely favored to win the general election, which is scheduled for April 14, according to Reuters (Esipisu, Reuters, 2/8). In addition, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the country's second-largest opposition party, earlier this month challenged Mbeki to "give more prominence to AIDS," according to the IPS/Mail & Guardian (IPS/Mail & Guardian, 2/6). Mbeki rejected the criticisms, saying, "I challenge anybody to produce any other country of the world that has a comparable (AIDS) program" (Reuters, 2/8). Although the South African Cabinet in November 2003 approved a plan for a national HIV/AIDS treatment program, drug distribution has not yet begun. The program aims to treat 1.2 million people -- or about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population -- by 2008. About 25% of adults in South Africa are HIV-positive, with about five million total HIV cases in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/6). Mbeki during a one-hour interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation promised large budget allocations for the fight against AIDS. SABC reporter John Perlman during the interview asked why in six State of the Nation addresses since 1999, Mbeki has not spoken about AIDS. Mbeki responded that the country's AIDS campaign was led by Deputy President Jacob Zuma. In addition, Mbeki said that there are "many, many things that impact on the health of our people," asking, "Why is it that nobody wants the president to speak about that?" (Terreblanche, Pretoria News/Independent Online, 2/9).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.