Thabo Mbeki Ignites AIDS Inferno

By Vesely, Milan | African Business, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Thabo Mbeki Ignites AIDS Inferno


Vesely, Milan, African Business


South African President Thabo Mbeki has finally articulated what millions of Africans have been thinking for quite a long time. Is HIV really the cause of AIDS in Africa and are the very expensive drugs made by giant western firms, the only relief? Milan Vesely discusses the impact of Mbeki's hand-written letter to Western heads of state and the effect this is likely to have on an international conference on the disease slated for July in Durban.

Twenty three million Africans will succumb to the AIDS epidemic by the year 2010 - a quarter of the sub-Saharan population. Nine mil lion children will be without mothers or fathers; five thousand adults are infected daily and the life expectancies of Zimbabwe's, Borswana's and Uganda's population halved. These terrifying statistics were highlighted by South African President Thabo Mbeki's controversial letter to Western heads of state.

Questioning the effectiveness of expensive cocktail drugs promoted by Western AIDS agencies to fight the disease, he ignited a political maelstrom by his highly personalized attack on long established medical theories. Going further, he also challenged the basically accepted premise that AIDS is a uniquely African catastrophe caused by the HIV virus itself.

"It would constitute a criminal betrayal of responsibility to our own people to mimic foreign approaches to treating the disease," President Mbeki wrote, "and we insist on South Africa's right to consult dissident scientists who deny that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS."

Prior to issuing his letter, and over his medical adviser's objections, President Mbeki consulted with David Rasnick, an ally of Berkeley biochemist Peter Duesberg, the best known proponent of the view that HIV does not cause AIDS and that treatment with drugs such as AZT does more harm than good.

Duesberg's questioning of the generally accepted theory that AIDS originated in Africa is quoted by President Mbeki in his letter which contends that the long held Western viewpoint that AIDS is a "uniquely African catastrophe" may be flawed. Known as an avid Internet browser, President Mbeki first came in contact with David Resnick's controversial web site while researching the origin of the AIDS epidemic.

In addressing his letter to Western Heads of State, President Mbeki has taken the AIDS issue out of the purely medical context and thrown it squarely into the political arena. As such, he has opened himself up to criticism from abroad, something the Clinton administration - which views the South African president as a valuable African ally--is trying at all costs to avoid.

Tremors of confusion

"South Africa's new democracy and advanced industry make it a natural leader on the continent," State Department AIDS czar Sandra Thurman contends, "and the issue of how to tackle the problem should nor degenerate into a slew of insults against President Mbeki for his controversial opinions.

President Mbeki's five page, hand-written correspondence has sent tremors of confusion through delegates slated to attend the July International Conference on AIDS in Durban, South Africa. Normally confined to a progress review of the disease's spread, the inclusion of President Mbeki's questioning of treatment specifics into the conference agenda has raised fundamental issues for international delegations.

"There has never been a significant international political controversy over AIDS," says one top level State Department official. "This could be the start of one."

So divisive are the issues raised in President Mbeki's letter that the Clinton administration restricted its distribution in an effort to prevent it becoming public. When this failed, senior U.S. policy officials would only confine their comments to areas of agreement in the South African President's correspondence.

"The letter was impassioned in parts, but I believe that much of its substance was quite logical and compelling," Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice said when reached in London. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Thabo Mbeki Ignites AIDS Inferno
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.