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International News

Activists, Media Viciously Attack South African AIDS Policies

August 6, 2003

In the past week, the South African government has come under heavy criticism for failing to roll out a national AIDS treatment plan and for choosing to focus instead on nutritious diets as a way to fight the disease.

Zackie Achmat, chair of the AIDS lobby group Treatment Action Campaign, speaking after a briefing by the Health Ministry at the South African AIDS Conference 2003 in Durban, said AIDS had become a deeply political issue in South Africa. "I am an ANC [ruling African National Congress] member and I can tell you that ANC will do itself enormous harm if it does not have a treatment plan in place by next year's election," said Achmat. "AIDS has become a political issue, because everyone that is infected needs access to antiretroviral drugs." "The reason South Africa cannot move forward is that President Thabo Mbeki and the health minister [Manto Tshabalala-Msimang] are HIV denialists," Achmat said.

A Wednesday editorial in the Cape Town-based newspaper Die Burger -- carried unusually on its front page instead of the inside pages -- called for an end to the government's "insanity" in its handling of the AIDS crisis.

The tenor of the Durban conference has been combative, with most of the participants denouncing the government's lack of a national treatment plan.

On Tuesday, the African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal urged all "patriotic South Africans" to ignore TAC's call to embark on a civil disobedience campaign to pressure the government into rolling out a national treatment plan. In reaction, Achmat said he wished ANC had the courage to tell its leader, Mbeki, that he was wrong about AIDS.

Tshabalala-Msimang said that accusations that the government was committing genocide were ill-advised. "This is an irresponsible statement and one that is politically dangerous," she said.

Back to other news for August 6, 2003

Adapted from:
Agence France-Presse
08.06.03; Stuart Graham

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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.
See Also
More on HIV Politics in South Africa