Mbeki, supporters HIV/Aids stance 'nonsense'

2016-03-10 12:22
Former president Thabo Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki (Nelius Rademan/Foto24)

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Johannesburg - The "nonsense" peddled by former president Thabo Mbeki and people who defended him regarding HIV and Aids has to be cleared up, GroundUp editor Nathan Geffen said on Thursday.

The first was that the virus could not cause a syndrome.

Geffen said this was not true.

"Infectious agents (germs such as viruses or bacteria) cause several syndromes, e.g. Ramsey Hunt Syndrome II is caused by Varicella zoster virus; Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome is caused by gonorrhoea or chlamydia; Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by HIV," he said.

The second "nonsense" matter was that HIV was a minor contributory factor in causing Aids.

"There is a huge amount of data showing that nearly everyone with HIV, in the absence of treatment, progresses to Aids," said Geffen.

"The biology of how HIV destroys the immune system, resulting in the diseases of the syndrome, is quite well understood."

Independent researchers

He said a tiny fraction of people - less than 1% in one very large study - with HIV known as elite controllers did not progress to Aids, but there was evidence that HIV infection affected even their health.

The debate regarding Mbeki's stance on the matter had resurfaced after the former president earlier this week addressed the "HIV denialism" which overshadowed his term in office.

So-called independent researchers, advocate Anthony Brink and Chris Rawlins, came out in support of Mbeki's views on HIV/Aids, however, many are still vehemently opposed to his stance.

Brink said Mbeki was correct in what he wrote in his recent open letter.

"What he [Mbeki] said was the truth. The moon isn't made of cheese and a virus doesn't cause a syndrome," he said.

Brink said the outrage at Mbeki's stance on HIV came from white liberal establishments who had bought a story sold by America.

Mbeki mentions Rawlins on his Facebook page, posting a link to his recent article challenging a Harvard University article which argued that the South African government under the Mbeki administration was responsible for deaths of many by refusing to accept available anti-retrovirals (ARVs).

I never said that - Mbeki

In his article on the TIG website, Rawlins said this analysis demonstrated that there was no link between HIV tests and child mortality. He said the HIV/Aids hypothesis was a mathematical impossibility.

In his open letter on Monday, Mbeki said he had never claimed that HIV did not cause Aids.

"This false accusation was made by people who benefited from trumpeting the slogan 'HIV causes Aids' as though this was a religious edict," he wrote.

Mbeki wrote that what he said instead was that a virus cannot cause a syndrome.
Geffen said the progression to Aids happened irrespective of diet or other lifestyle factors, though these could influence the speed of progression.

"Genetics (of both the virus and person) as well as age are important factors, but we can do nothing about these," he said.

"Antiretroviral treatment is the one and only intervention we know of that consistently and predictably prevents the vast majority of people with HIV progressing to Aids."

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) accused the former president of refusing to take responsibility or apologise to any of those who suffered directly or indirectly because of his actions.

"For this history will judge him harshly. He deserves it," it said in a statement in reaction to Mbeki's letter, published on Health24.

The TAC said Mbeki was simply wrong.

"A virus can cause a syndrome and it has long ago been proven that HIV causes Aids. His word games in this regard are a cowardly form of confuscation."

- Read Geffen's full column here: Clearing up two Mbeki misconceptions

Read more on:    tac  |  thabo mbeki  |  hiv aids

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