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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Mbeki's letter to world leaders
Mbeki says Africa should find its own way to fight Aids
South African President Thabo Mbeki has sent a letter to world leaders saying Africans should find their own course to fight Aids.

Following are the main parts of his letter.

"As you are aware, international organisations such as Unaids have been reporting that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the world incidence of HIV-Aids. These reports indicate that our own country is among the worst affected.

"A simple superimposition of Western experience (in fighting Aids) on African reality would be absurd and illogical."

As you know, Aids in the United States and other developed Western countries has remained largely confined to a section of the male homosexual population.

US Aids deaths for the period January 1996 to June 1997 were stated by the US CDC as amounting to 32,750.

Aids death
Aids is responsible for one death in five in Africa
On May 13, 1999, a Safa-AFP report datelined Paris stated that 1998 Unaids and WHO reports had said that Aids was responsible for one death in five in Africa, or about two million people.

As Africans, we have to deal with this uniquely African catastrophe that:

  • contrary to the West, HIV-Aids in Africa is heterosexually transmitted;

  • contrary to the West, where relatively few people have died from Aids, itself a matter of serious concern, millions are said to have died in Africa;

  • and contrary to the West, where Aids deaths are declining, even greater numbers of Africans are destined to die.

    It is obvious that whatever lessons we have to and may draw from the West about the grave issue of HIV-Aids, a simple superimposition of Western experience on African reality would be absurd and illogical.

    I am convinced that our urgent task is to respond to the specific threat that faces us as Africans. We will not eschew this obligation in favour of the comfort of the recitation of a catechism that may very well be a correct response to the specific manifestation of Aids in the West.

    "Scientists, in the name of science, are demanding that we should cooperate with them to freeze scientific discourse on HIV-Aids."

    We will not, ourselves, condemn our own people to death by giving up the search for specific and targeted responses to the specifically African incidence of HIV-Aids.

    I make these comments because our search for these specific and targeted responses is being stridently condemned by some in our country and the rest of the world as constituting a criminal abandonment of the fight against HIV-Aids.

    Some elements of this orchestrated campaign of condemnation worry me very deeply.

    It is suggested, for instance, that there are some scientists who are 'dangerous and discredited' with whom nobody, including ourselves, should communicate or interact.

    "The day may not be far off when we will, once again, see books burnt and their authors immolated by fire."

    In an earlier period in human history, these would be heretics that would be burnt at the stake!

    The scientists we are supposed to put into scientific quarantine include Nobel Prize Winners, Members of Academies of Science and Emeritus Professors of various disciplines of medicine!

    Scientists, in the name of science, are demanding that we should cooperate with them to freeze scientific discourse on HIV-Aids at the specific point this discourse had reached in the West in 1984.

    The day may not be far off when we will, once again, see books burnt and their authors immolated by fire by those who believe that they have a duty to conduct a holy crusade against the infidels.

    It is most strange that all of us seem ready to serve the cause of the fanatics by deciding to stand and wait.

    Thabo Mbeki"

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    12 May 99 | Aids
    Aids Africa's top killer
    12 Nov 99 | Health
    UK outlines 23m Aids package
    23 Nov 99 | Health
    UN to forecast HIV rise
    23 Nov 99 | Health
    HIV hits 50 million
    08 Jul 99 | Aids
    Aids drugs factfile
    04 Nov 99 | Aids
    Aids up close
    14 Jan 99 | Africa
    Profile: Thabo Mbeki
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