Nobel Peace Prize Winner Attempts to Explain Comments About Origins of HIV, Says Statements Taken Out of Context
December 10, 2004
Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai on Thursday -- one day before she was scheduled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway -- attempted to "defuse a controversy" over previously reported comments she made about the possible origins of HIV, the New York Times reports (Gibbs, New York Times, 12/10). In August, Kenya's East African Standard quoted Maathai as saying that HIV/AIDS was created by scientists "for the purpose of mass extermination." She added, "AIDS is not a curse from God to Africans or the black people. It is a tool to control them designed by some evil-minded scientists, but we may not know who particularly did." In October, Maathai repeated her belief that HIV was "devised to destroy black people." She added that her comments published in the Standard were "intended to promote an inquiring attitude" toward HIV/AIDS among Africans and "combat the fatalistic notion that it was a curse from God." Although Maathai said she never indicated that a specific region or nation was responsible for creating HIV/AIDS, she said she is "suspicious" about the "secrecy surrounding the origin of the virus" and that "some people say it came from the monkeys, and I doubt it" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/12). In a statement released Thursday by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects Peace Prize laureates, Maathai said that she has been "shocked" by the negative reaction to her statements, adding, "It is therefore critical for me to state that I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive." The statement continued, "But I'm sure the scientists will continue their search for concluding evidence so that the view -- which continues to be quite widespread -- that the tragedy could have been caused by biological experiments that failed terribly in a laboratory somewhere, can be put to rest."
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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.