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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Mbeki says CIA had role in HIV/AIDS conspiracy

United Press International - Friday, 6 October 2000

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 6 (UPI) -- South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has accused the Central Intelligence Agency of being part of a "conspiracy to promote the view that HIV causes AIDS," The Mail & Guardian reported Friday.

Mbeki also thinks that the CIA is working covertly alongside the big U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers to undermine him because, by questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, he is thought to pose a risk to the profits of drug companies making anti-retroviral treatments, the paper reported.

Although more than 4 million South Africans are believed to be infected with HIV and the country has one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic -- described this week by a leading medical academic as the "greatest genocide of our time" -- Mbeki has maintained a highly controversial belief that AIDS is not caused by the HIV virus.

Instead, he bases his increasingly eccentric beliefs on the cause of AIDS on the work of a small group of scientifically discredited so-called AIDS dissidents, who hold that there is no causal link between HIV and AIDS.

Mbeki made his latest comments about the CIA in his address at the ruling African National Congress caucus recent meeting in Parliament, in Cape Town.

This follows Mbeki's public announcement in Parliament that the government's policy was "based on the thesis of that HIV causes AIDS".

During his public address on September 20 he noted that AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and said: "A virus cannot cause a syndrome."

Mbeki believes Third-World problems such as poverty, disease and malnourishment are factors that have contributed to the diseases high incidence in sub-Saharan Africa.

The parliamentarians that spoke to the Mail & Guardian were "outraged" that Mbeki used the closed-door meeting to continue promoting his own controversial view -- which doctors and AIDS counselors say have confused the message in awareness campaigns.

AIDS activists point to the South Africa's high HIV incidence - reportedly one in 10 of the population at the end of 1999, according to government figures -- being much higher than in some poorer neighbors with strong awareness campaigns.

This latest incidents comes after a week of flare ups over his refusal to state HIV causes AIDS.

One of the country's main Sunday newspapers reported that Mbeki's office had "declared war" on journalist and former Oxford professor R.W. Johnson for suggesting that Mbeki was "off his rocker". Johnson, the director of the prestigious Helen Suzman Foundation and a freelance journalist who writes a regular column about South Africa for London's Sunday Times, wrote in the 26 August edition of The Spectator, that "many now believe that Mbeki is no longer playing with a full pack -- that he's off his rocker" and that "he may really be suffering the nervous breakdown that some suspect".

Essop Pahad, the minister in the presidency, and other presidential advisers are upset by the spread of an anti-Mbeki slant in the overseas press, a sentiment that they consider Johnson to have ignited, the Sunday Independent reported.

On Monday, the South African Medical and Dental Council, which represents three out of four doctors in the country, made their first public statement on the controversy.

"There is no merit in him confusing everyone about the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS," they said.

On Tuesday, his chief aide in the ANC presidency, Smuts Ngonyama wrote an opinion piece in the leading financial daily Business Day, which revisited the controversy by highlighting Mbeki's views. This was followed on Wednesday by the ruling party's National Executive Committee released a statement suggesting that criticism was part of "a massive propaganda onslaught against the ANC, its president and its government".

The party's most powerful committee, made up its top leaders, followed Mbeki's lead by refusing to clarify its position but saying it supported the government's prevention campaigns.

On the same day, Malegapuru Makgoba, president of the Medical Research Council, said the political and scientific decisions taken about the epidemic might result in history judging South Africans as having collaborated in the "greatest genocide of our time". He added, in a clear reference to Mbeki, that the country could not afford "any more blunders or mixed messages".

This week's flare up follows an unprecedented public censure from former president Nelson Mandela, who said in an interview last month that he shared the "dominant opinion that prevails throughout the world" that HIV is the cause of AIDS, adding that he would only be persuaded otherwise if new scientific research showed "conclusively that that view is wrong."

Even the man appointed by Mbeki as the first black governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, has warned that a major obstacle in the country's economic growth, besides unemployment, is HIV and AIDS. Mboweni said about 4.2-million people in South Africa had been infected with HIV and that every day, between 1,500 to 1,700 people in the country were infected. Between 1997 and 1998, infection rates among 15 to 19 year olds rose by a 65 percent.

The government's fiercest criticism has come because of its refusal to provide low-cost drugs to prevent mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, even though 5,000 HIV-positive babies are born each month.

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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.