U.S. Senator Obama Challenges South Africa to Face AIDS Crisis
August 22, 2006
At an AIDS treatment hospital in a township outside Cape Town, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Monday that South Africa's government must not deny its AIDS crisis, and he pledged to take an HIV test when he reaches Kenya later this week.
"The information being provided by the ministry of health is not accurate," said Obama, referring to Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's promotion of dietary nutrients over antiretroviral therapy to treat AIDS. "It's not scientifically correct," Obama added. "It's not an issue of Western science versus African science. It's just science. And it's not right."
"There needs to be a sense of urgency and an almost clinical truth-telling about AIDS in this country for the problem to be solved," said Obama. "If it is not addressed in an unambiguous fashion, the percentage of people who are infected is going [to go] off the charts." South Africa has one of the world's highest HIV/AIDS caseloads, but President Thabo Mbeki has publicly questioned HIV's relation to AIDS.
Zachie Achmat, the founder of South Africa's AIDS activist group Treatment Action Campaign, praised Obama: "He's right. We wish that more politicians were that honest."
During Obama's tour of Kenya -- his father's homeland -- later this week, he plans to visit a treatment and research center operated by CDC. While there, Obama said he has agreed to CDC's request to take an HIV test, "in front of cameras, so people can see that there's nothing stigmatizing about getting an AIDS test."
"It will encourage other people who may be less brave," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who met with Obama Monday. "Soon, you're not speaking about someone who is infected like they are pariahs."
08.22.06; Jeff Zeleny, Laurie Goering
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.