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The Body Covers: The XIII International AIDS Conference
Opening Ceremony

July 9, 2000

This is an important meeting: the first International AIDS Conference in a developing country. So far all the fears about security and the possibility of problems have been unjustified. The organization is good, and certainly the conference center is cooler than the one in Geneva, my only other experience in International AIDS Conferences. South Africa is a beautiful country -- although it is a country with many challenges, the people clearly want to improve things.

The opening ceremony was a moving spectacle and president Mbeki's speech was better than I expected. Although I do not agree completely with him, he made some valid points: the problem, in developing countries, he said, is not only AIDS, it is also TB, malaria, malnutrition, homelessness and overall extreme poverty. Surely Africa has to prioritize and help alleviate the suffering from AIDS, but they are dealing with so many other sufferings from multiple other causes. Mbeki is obviously a smart politician, democratically elected, and he knows what he is talking about. And whether we like it or not, we must admit that, compared to the poverty that is quite the norm here, we are a bunch of rich people visiting for a week imagining we can save the world. One thing I did not like was Mbeki's assertion that he is going to be looking at the value of the ELISA test for 5 months, and listening to some dubious advisors. With so many things yet to do to alleviate the suffering that AIDS is putting on his people, it is shocking that he is occupied with this, but we (and by "we" I mean the developed world) are not in a great position to criticize that he is taking several months to think about this when we have done so little for the developing world for too long. We have, for example, known for years that OI prophylaxis helps to save lives and yet we have not done anything to help developing countries establish inexpensive prophylactic programs. It is always easy to find someone else to blame.



  
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Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.

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