SOUTH AFRICA: Mbeki Discusses HIV/AIDS in Press Conference withForeign Media
In his first press conference with the foreign media since he took office in June 1999, South African President Thabo Mbeki defended his controversial stance on HIV/AIDS, discussed his future plans for research on the epidemic and "shrugged off" a recent poll showing a large drop in his approval rating (Nessman, AP/Nando Times, 10/25). Even though he "offered no apologies" for his questioning of the link between HIV/AIDS, Mbeki also "dodge[d] a direct answer" on the issue, giving "long, rambling responses to questions," the Baltimore Sun reports. "If you are looking for pop answers you are not going to get them from me, because science is not reducible to campaign slogans in the street," Mbeki said. Mbeki also defended his high level of visibility and involvement in the controversial issue, an issue that his critics say should be left to scientists. "Whatever the controversy ... people are dying from AIDS and there is no vaccine. If the attention by the president to a matter of that kind results in him being described as unhinged, I guess I cannot help it," Mbeki stated. However, Mbeki added that he believes there may be "biological differences" between Africans and other people which have caused HIV/AIDS to spread so quickly on the continent. Mbeki said that a panel of international scientists he appointed earlier this year would complete a study of these differences by the end of the year, a study he believes could "help clarify the link between HIV and AIDS" (Murphy, Baltimore Sun, 10/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.