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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Aids: Are Western solutions 'absurd'?
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has sparked new controversy over Aids.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
In a letter to world leaders, he says using Western solutions to combat the disease would be absurd. He argues that the epidemic is a "uniquely African catastrophe" and questions whether HIV really causes the disease.
He said he wanted to avoid the "superimposition of Western experience on African reality".
The South African Government has refused to make the drug AZT available in public clinics, saying that it is toxic even though studies have shown it can protect the babies of HIV-infected mothers.
So is he right? Is the West guilty of ramming western solutions down Africa's throats? Or is Presidient Mbeki putting lives at risk by flying in the face of medical opinion?
What rubbish, AIDS and HIV is pandemic and needs a global solution not pathetic childish fighting between countries trying to gain some kind of feudal popularity contest. True, the western economies probably could flood the African continent with HIV therapeutic drugs but why, so some corrupt tin-pot leader as Mbeki appears to be developing into can line their own pockets. Bring back Mandela at least he could see a vision beyond his own popularity.
Neil Hastings, USA
So the UK and US people knows the solutions to Africa do they?
The high prices demanded by the drug companies -- which are backed by Western governments -- is the real scandal here. Must millions be sacrificed on the altar of "intellectual property rights"? How dare the drug companies refuse to share their discoveries with the people who really need them?
And how long must we wait for the real solution to this problem: a cheap, effective vaccine that can break the chain of infection? To be used, of course, in conjunction with retroviral drugs for those already infected, who must not be written off.
I can understand Mbeki's frustration with the drug companies' greed, but he is on the worst possible track. I wonder how he will dare to show his face to the World AIDS Conference, which meets in July in Durban.
Lee Zaslofsky, Canada
Mike Musuya is right to say in his letter that AIDS in Africa is a social problem. All research work has pointed to the sexual beliefs for the rampant spread of HIV through heterosexual sex. What Mbeki probably means is this that unless the basic beliefs and practices are changed HIV will continue to be transmitted from one person to another.
No. The man is out of control. (In a Western country at least there would be a system whereby someone could rein him in.) When someone uses a word like "absurd" in this context it speaks volumes about him, and his approach, and says nothing about the people he presumes to be addressing. It's otherwise known as projection.
I'm afraid President Mbeki is painfully right when he says that
Western solutions are not right for Africa, because there is
simply no money for that.
But it's also painful to read that he is denying the
existence of Aids. By doing this and probably turning
to witch-doctors etc. he denies his people the proven
curing effects of the available drugs.
And I can assure him myself that they work!
Let the Africans decide for themselves what is best. Perhaps they can come up with solutions the west has not.
If western governments believe the African's treatment of Aids is cause for alarm then let the western governments publish traveller's advisories and take precautions when Africans enter western countries.
But, leave them alone to decide for themselves how best to treat Aids in Africa.
Are western solutions absurd? I don't know. I just know that the "bury-your-head-in-the-sand" approach taken by governments in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa have proven to be miserable failures. If Thabo Mbeki can come up with a solution to stop the tidal wave, so to speak, more power to him. But the current approach of ignoring the problem in the hopes that it will go away has not worked.
Only the Africans know what is best for them. I think Europeans should keep out of all African affairs.
It is possible (though unlikely in this day and age) that there are diseases in Africa that have not yet been introduced in the West and vice versa. In the case in question, the vast majority of the medics are agreed that HIV causes the Aids virus found in Africa. In any case since AZT has been found to work it is plain foolish to deny its use to sufferers whose choices and chances of survival are dangerously limited as it stands.
All possible angles should be explored. Let scientific methods prove wrong those who say HIV does not cause AIDS. What if they are right? They have to be heard. Why should we shut them up? Let them prove a point to us...
AIDS is not a uniquely African problem.
It is a world problem, although Africa
is probably hardest hit by the epidemic.
I think it's absurd for the South African
government to ban AZT, which will
drastically extend the lives of AIDS victims
and lessen their suffering. Many AIDS cases
in Africa is spread by old fashioned medical
techniques - reusing needles, not screening
blood, not sterilising tools, etc.
President Mbeki is making a tragic mistake. As a person of African descent in the US I beg him and all concerned to put aside all nationalism and politics and to reconsider their position. Focus only on how to prevent the loss of millions of innocent black lives due to the spread of HIV. Forget the Duesberg crowd who nobody takes seriously in the US.
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK (in US)
If Mr Mbeki does not want western help to combat Aids, so be it. Blame colonialism, Mr Mbeki, if it will keep your constituents happy while they wait to die. In the meantime, please send assistance to countries who appreciate the work being done to combat this global problem.
Instead of quibbling over the details, we need to focus on the problem...Africa is loosing its ability to repopulate. The disease is killing us. Sure some western solutions might not apply, or we might want to be bound into using AZT. One has to focus on getting the epidemic stopped or at least slowed. In Africa, I believe education is the key.
It maybe that we in the west are not educated in the ways of African life. Is African anatomy so different that the disease behaves differently in an African host (yes tongue is planted firmly in cheek)?
Hang on a minute...we are referring to the actions of an independent state here. Who are we to tell them how they should tackle a problem that we have failed to tackle ourselves?
We are all grown-ups: why do western governments - particularly in the USA - insist on treating Africa like a child?
I it really surprising when they treat their own people like children incapable of governing their own lives?
I have an awful feeling that we are watching a continent die. I believe the Dodo and the Ostrich would make fitting mascots for the various governments that refuse to really tackle the issue.
With HIV on the increase among young heterosexual females in the UK, how much can we really teach those in Africa? Our solutions are flawed no - wonder they are rejected.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands
I agree entirely with Thabo Mbeki
that is astounding to see this international
campaign to prevent further inquiry
into the origins of AIDS. Obviously, there are
many in Europe and North America who
are gladly propagating the myth that AIDS
originated in African primates; naturally, they
would like to see any research that could
disprove this racist science abandoned.
I urge Mbeki on behalf of the much slandered
African race not to submit to intimidation by Europe
and North America and press on with
the research into the real causes of AIDS in Africa.
Clearly, those uniquely African solutions have only made the situation hopelessly worse.
...and they wonder why we don't take African countries and their leaders seriously...
One stark reality for South Africa will be a missing generation in about 10 years time.
If viewed from a Western viewpoint, as many of us are forced to because we have no other frame of reference, then Mbeki's comments do seem absurd. We try to impose Western ways in Africa and we wonder why they fail. We assume that what works for us will work everywhere else. Africa is not the West and needs its own unique solutions. This is Mbeki's point. Unfortunately most seem to have missed that. In this context Mbeki is correct - Western solutions are absurd.
Anti-retroviral therapy was swiftly introduced to reduce mother-to-child transmission and participation in the pilot had the benefit of Uganda receiving discounted drugs from major pharmaceutical companies who themselves found a market which did not previously exist. The success of Uganda's approach has been dependent on appropriate medical education, clinical management and sustainability of access to drugs and diagnostics. This is surely proof that these treatments should not be dismissed and the costs need to be balanced against the economic cost of the loss to aids, of large proportions of Africa's population of working age and resultant orphaned children.
These kinds of comments do nothing for the battle with this terrible disease. The lack of understanding in Africa is the very reason why up to 1 in 3 of the people living in certain regions have the HIV virus. This is likely to become the greatest killer of the 21st century, far beyond that of malaria.
Instead of doubting the obvious (the virus causing aids), Mbeki and the South African government should put a high priority on prevention. It is simply unbelievable that this takes so much time. Undoubtedly some people will still argue that the world is flat. Should they receive an international forum? Sadly Mbeki is providing such a forum for a similar nonsense opinion.
Johan Vanrusselt, Belgium
As a young gay Asian male I find Mbeki's comments absurd when he says that HIV is transmitted among homosexuals in Western Society. This is a disease we must ALL contend with.
If western medical findings on AIDS are accurate then it should be taken as such. I would sooner trust the results of even a fallible scientific process than the whims of someone who thinks AIDS is a 'uniquely African' problem. We should all base our decisions on what is real, not on whimsical ideas.
Whether countries choose to accept particular medical opinion is up to them. Certainly the cost of treatment using Western medicines is probably a factor. But his view, based on those of two fringe US scientists, flies in the face of medical opinion the world over and he is undoubtedly taking a huge gamble with the lives of South Africa's population.
20 Apr 00 | Africa
Mbeki attacks West's Aids policy
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