South Africa’s ANC Decries Carter’s Criticism of Government’s HIV/AIDS Policies
South Africa's ruling African National Congress yesterday called former U.S. President Jimmy Carter "arrogant and contemptuous" for criticizing the nation's refusal to condone widespread use of antiretroviral drugs -- specifically the drug nevirapine, which can reduce the odds of mother-to-child HIV transmission -- that the government says are "unproven," the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. "We find it alarming that President Carter is willing to treat our people as guinea pigs, in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies, which he would not do in his own country," a party statement said. However, many antiretroviral drugs, including nevirapine, are approved for use in the United States by the FDA, and a recent South African study commissioned by the government listed no adverse side effects for nevirapine, which in South Africa is limited to 18 pilot test sites pending resolution of an ongoing legal challenge (see story 4). "We do not need the interference and contemptuous attitude of President Carter or anybody else. We are not arrogant to presume that we know what the United States should do to respond to its many domestic challenges. Nobody from elsewhere in the world should presume they have a superior right to tell us what to do with our own challenges," the statement said (Cohen, AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/11). Carter and Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are in Africa until tomorrow to meet with heads of state, government ministers, health workers, faith-based organizations, volunteers, private businesses and HIV-positive individuals to draw attention to the African AIDS epidemic (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/25). Speaking yesterday in Abuja, Nigeria, where he praised President Olusegun Obasanjo for his HIV/AIDS efforts, Carter also criticized South African President Thabo Mbeki by comparison. "We came earlier this week from another country, which I won't name, where the president has avoided this responsibility completely and AIDS is rampant and growing every day," he said at a service at Nigeria's presidential villa, adding that AIDS has been "held under reasonable control [in Nigeria] by the enlightened and aggressive leadership" of its government (Da Costa, Associated Press, 3/10). Mbeki, who has been criticized by international leaders and former South African President Nelson Mandela for his refusal to provide AIDS drugs through public institutions, did not comment on Carter's remarks or the ANC statement (AP/Contra Costa Times, 3/11).
Praising Efforts in Nigeria and Kenya
Carter and Gates yesterday also visited a prostitutes' colony near Abuja, where they urged the women to "insist that their partners use condoms" but admitted that it was not always possible for the women to persuade their partners to comply, This Day/AllAfrica.com reports. About 5,000 women and girls in the colony work in the sex trade. Carter said it was "most gratifying" that the women were aware of HIV/AIDS and had taken some efforts to protect themselves and their clients, but he implored Nigerians to do more (This Day/AllAfrica.com, 3/10). Carter and Gates then travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, where this morning Carter praised President Daniel arap Moi's "extraordinary leadership" on HIV/AIDS and again appeared to criticize Mbeki, the Associated Press reports. "In some countries, leaders are reluctant ... to mention the use of condoms, to mention the spread of AIDS," Carter said, commending arap Moi for declaring the disease a national disaster. Carter and Gates then visited Nairobi's Kibera slum, the largest in East Africa, where an estimated 20% of the population is thought to be HIV-positive. Gates announced that his foundation will donate $2 billion to three programs aimed at preventing HIV transmission, including one that provides prostitutes with career training. More than two million of Kenya's 30 million people are thought to be HIV-positive (Associated Press, 3/11).