During his presidency, Thabo Mbeki denied the fact that HIV led to AIDS, which resulted in many deaths that could have been avoided.
There was a study which was conducted by the Harvard University which proved that Mbeki's denial of the fact that HIV leads to AIDS caused the death of more than 300 000 people.
Astronomical figures indeed. Deaths that were completely avoidable, but Mbeki decided to go against science and opted to deny the existence of the fact that HIV led to AIDS. South Africa is one of the countries in the world with the highest prevalence rates of HIV (with around 5.6 million people living with the vurus, which translates to about 17.3% of the population.) Mbeki refused the existence of HIV and subsequently refused anti-retroviral drugs, which he referred to as "poison."
In 2000, Mbeki called together a round table of experts, including Duesberg and his supporters, but also their opponents, to discuss the cause of Aids. Later that year, at the International Aids conference in Durban, he publicly rejected the accepted scientific wisdom. Aids, he said, was brought about by the collapse of the immune system – but not because of a virus. The cause, he said, was poverty, bad nourishment and general ill-health. The solution was not expensive western medicine, but the alleviation of poverty in Africa.
HIV/AIDS denialism in South Africa, as he phenomenon has come to be known, resulted in a collapse that was totally unnecessary. While Mbeki was busy calling on "experts" discussing on whether HIV led to AIDS, many people died as this area was grossly neglected intentionally. His government refused to give offer antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
It was his departure in 2008 that paved a new course for South Africa in tackling the catastrophe of HIV/AIDS. Even though the symbiosis between HIV and AIDS has been proved by countless scientists beyond reasonable doubt, Mbeki kept on refusing that HIV led to AIDS. President Jacob Zuma’s government has performed brilliantly in the domain of the prevention and treatment of HIV and Aids. Since 2009, the Zuma administration has put in place an array of pragmatic programmes to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
His strange HIV/AIDS denialism has been attributed to mere lack of human compassion by others. During Mbeki's presidency, many medical researchers harshly criticized his AIDS policies and predicted that these policies would lead to countless deaths.
Another critic of these policies was Harvard University's Robert Rotberg, who, in 2000, said of Mbeki's AIDS policies, "This is very foolish and uncharacteristic of him." In 2002, Mbeki's AIDS policies faced even more criticism, this time from Nelson Mandela, who said in an interview that, "This [AIDS] is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters. We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying."
The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, also criticized these policies, saying that the government was "sinning" by "withholding truth and maintaining the silence of denial" over AIDS. Desmond Tutu also spoke out against Mbeki's AIDS denialist policies and compared them to "fiddling while Rome burns."
Mbeki's denialism led to many unnecessary deaths and we wonder whether those affected by such deaths will ever forgive him for his folly in matters of great importance.
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