Each time I have read about AIDS policies in South Africa I have been amazed. South Africa is, as far as I know, a relatively developed country if you compare it to other nations in the same area, yet somehow they have managed to avoid reading about AIDS research for at least a decennium. Only a few years ago president Mbeki (picture) questioned whether HIV and AIDS were related(!). Since then his unbelievable ignorance has generated headlines on a regular basis. On one of his particularly bright moment Mbeki said that he did not know anyone who had died in AIDS. Not long before he uttered these words his own press secretary had succumbed to the disease, not to mention the 600 people who die from AIDS in South Africa every single day!
The climax happened in august this year when South African representatives visited the international AIDS conference, proudly exhibiting their best cures against the disease, such as beets and garlic. They were severely ridiculed because of this, and a speech by AIDS activist Stephen Lewis (who is by the way not welcome in South Africa) received wild cheers when he described South Africa’s AIDS policy as insanity (I would have clapped to). Since then South Africa, thank god, have started to give their population conventional medicine which can help increase life span as well as life quality. Out of the 5.5 million HIV carriers in South Africa today, 213000 are receiving medicines, a figure which is currently increasing with 11000 per month. Too slow indeed, but better than it has been before.
What I really find hard to understand about all this is why? What do politicians have to gain by letting their people suffer more than is necessary? Does anyone know? Or is it really true that they believe Garlic and beets (or having sex with infants) really helps? Do religious beliefs play a role? In all fairness you can find weird cures for most things in most countries, but rarely does the government itself hold such outrageous beliefs about such a serious belief…
Most of this I read in yesterdays (14th of December 2006) issue of In yesterdays Svenska dagbladet.