Editorials and Commentary
South African Stubbornness Deadly
March 18, 2002
"...In a visit to Africa last week, [President] Carter had urged the South African government to act more aggressively against AIDS, even offering to help raise funds for the effort.
"Forty percent of deaths of people ages 14-49 in 2000 were attributed to HIV/AIDS, according to South Africa's Medical Research Council, and 'the projections show that, without treatment to prevent AIDS, the number of AIDS deaths can be expected to grow in the next 10 years... resulting in 5 million to 7 million cumulative AIDS deaths in South Africa by 2010.'
"By distributing the AIDS drug nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women, South Africa could save tens of thousands of newborns from the disease, but instead the government of South African President Thabo Mbeki has refused to act. The government is appealing a court's order that it distribute the drug beyond 18 pilot sites....
"In a brazen lie, Mbeki's government claims that nevirapine is unsafe and that Carter 'is willing to treat our people as guinea pigs, in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies.' But the drug already has been approved for use here in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration and also has been endorsed by the World Health Organization.
"Even Mbeki's mentor, the venerable Nelson Mandela, is tiring of the games that the president and his leadership play with people's lives. "This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters," Mandela told South Africa's largest newspaper, The Sunday Times. "We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying.
"How tragic that the [African National Congress], which this year celebrates 90 years of struggle for the rights of people of color, now stands idly by as they die."
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.