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AFRO-NETS> South Africa AIDS Report Shows Rift
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> South Africa AIDS Report Shows Rift
- From: Lenny Rhine <Lenny@library.health.ufl.edu>
- Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 17:20:59 -0400 (EDT)
South Africa AIDS Report Shows Rift
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -- An AIDS panel torn between mainstream
and dissident scientists issued a sharply divided report Wednesday on
how to deal with the disease in South Africa, with dissidents urging
a halt to HIV testing and the use of AIDS medications.
President Thabo Mbeki created the advisory council last year and came
under fire for including revisionist theorists, many of whom question
whether the HIV virus causes the disease, the effectiveness of AIDS
medication and whether AIDS exists at all.
The 134-page report noted the two groups have a "fundamental dis-
agreement" on the cause of AIDS and, as a result, emerged with "dif-
ferent sets of recommendations."
The dissidents urged the suspension of all HIV testing and said AIDS
medication should no longer be prescribed. They also recommended the
government devote its resources to eradicating malaria, tuberculosis
and other "prominent AIDS defining diseases."
Among their recommendations for preventing AIDS were detoxification
of the body through massage therapy, music therapy, yoga and spiri-
tual care and the use of supplements like ginseng, Chinese cucumber,
aloe vera, garlic and echinacea.
The mainstream scientists urged HIV testing and the use of anti-
retroviral drugs. "A stronger emphasis should be placed on sex educa-
tion," they said, including more widespread condom use and treatment
of sexually transmitted diseases.
Both sides agreed on the need to continue to improve social condi-
tions, reduce poverty and improve nutrition -- factors Mbeki has said
would help curb the spread of the disease. Some 4.7 million South Af-
ricans are infected with HIV.
Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa's health minister, said
the government won't change its AIDS policy because of the report.
"Pending the outcome of further research, the debates of the panel
have not provided grounds for government to depart from its current
approach to the HIV/AIDS problem, which is rooted in the premise that
HIV causes AIDS," she said in a news release.
AIDS activists complained that Mbeki's flirtation with the dissident
AIDS theorists damaged prevention efforts, giving South Africans an
excuse not to practice safe sex.
The government has been criticized for failing to quickly provide
drugs to infected pregnant women to help prevent transmission of the
disease to their babies.
Mbeki said in October he was pulling back from the debate on HIV and
appointed three Cabinet ministers to deal with the advisory board in
The panel's two closed sessions, in May and June, were reportedly
wracked with disagreements between the two groups. Tshabalala-Msimang
said it was never assumed the panel would reach consensus, and that
one of its main aims was to formulate proposals for future research.
In the report, the dissidents recommended HIV tests be stopped be-
cause they were unreliable and AIDS prevention efforts in Africa were
based on those faulty results.
"These drugs inevitably require significant amounts of compensatory
medicine and are claimed to produce, at best, only short-term bene-
fits in seriously sick patients," it said.
The mainstream scientists argued that more research was needed to see
how anti-retrovirals should be used. "Given the demonstrated benefits
of anti-retroviral drugs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, the usage of
that accumulated knowledge to the benefit of South Africans living
with HIV infection was critical," they said.
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