Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 09:16 UK

SA minister calls for HIV vaccine

Barbara Hogan
Barbara Hogan spent eight years in prison for fighting apartheid

South Africa's new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, has called for a renewed global effort to find a vaccine for HIV, which can lead to Aids.

Ms Hogan said it was unquestionable that HIV caused Aids and conventional medicines were the best treatment.

This comes in sharp contrast to her predecessor, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who spent years resisting the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs.

Some 5.5 million South Africans have HIV - more than in any other country.

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang earned the nickname "Dr Beetroot" for advocating healthy eating, as an alternative to ARV drugs.

We desperately need an effective HIV vaccine
Health Minister Barbara Hogan

Without directly criticising her predecessor, Ms Hogan told an international Aids vaccine conference in Cape Town on Monday that time had been wasted in the country's battle against Aids.

It was, she added, imperative that HIV prevention programmes were successful.

Ms Hogan's appointment as health minister has been welcomed by anti-Aids campaigners.

'Breath of fresh air'

"We know that HIV causes Aids," Ms Hogan said.

"It was imperative to get ahead of the curve of this epidemic 10 years ago. We all have lost ground. It's even more imperative now that we make HIV prevention work. We desperately need an effective HIV vaccine."

Commenting on her speech, Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, said she was "a breath of fresh air".

Malegapuru Makgoba, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that for the first time in years, South African academics were free to "state that HIV causes Aids without getting threats".

"It is a liberating experience," he said at the conference. "You don't know how long we suffered in bondage."

Former President Thabo Mbeki for many years suggested that HIV did not lead to Aids.

He resigned last month and his successor Kgalema Motlanthe quickly moved to name a new health minister.

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