Internal ANC Document Questions Existence of AIDS, Describes AIDS Drugs as ‘Toxic’
An internal document circulated two weekends ago during a meeting of the National Executive Council of South Africa's ruling African National Congress questioned the existence of AIDS, called AIDS drugs "poisonous" and accused the West of "blatant racism" in its attitude toward the African health crisis, AP/Newsday reports. The 114-page document, obtained by the Associated Press Friday, was composed by several "high-ranking ANC officials" and was distributed at special NEC meeting on AIDS two weekends ago, according to Peter Mokaba, an ANC parliamentarian and NEC member (AP/Newsday, 3/22). After the meeting, the ANC on Wednesday released a statement reaffirming its commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and giving support to current government policy. The ANC-led government has come under fire for appealing a court order to provide the drug nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the incidence of vertical HIV transmission. In the official NEC statement, the ANC defended its appeal, saying that the courts do not have a right to mandate health actions. The ANC also said it would continue to monitor results from 18 pilot sites that are distributing nevirapine and would make a final judgement about expanding the plan based on those results (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/21). However, the internal ANC memo, distributed at the NEC meeting by the party, questioned the "scientific story that is told about the HIV/AIDS pandemic," saying that the "accepted truths" about the disease resulted from Western stereotypes of Africans as "immoral, diseased and sexually depraved people." It went on to say that the virus that causes AIDS had never been isolated, HIV tests are "absolutely ineffective" and AIDS drugs are "poisonous." The memo urged South Africans not to be "bribed or intimidated" by drug companies who are trying to "b[uy] and terroriz[e]" Africans by propagating the AIDS myth. The report blamed poverty for Africa's problems and said the West was using AIDS as an excuse to "ignore its costly responsibility to help the continent's development."
Criticism and Support
Dr. Saadiq Kariem, the ANC's second-ranking health policy official, called the internal report "ludicrous," saying that he feared it would only further "confuse" South Africans about the disease and how to prevent it. "It's irresponsible for senior leaders of the ANC to be putting out documents of this nature. It sends out a confused message. In the end of the day the ANC will be the laughingstock of the world," he said. Mokaba defended the document, which was also given to leaders of the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the ANC's partners in the government, saying that the government "cannot be stampeded into any one position by people whose interest is merely to sell antiretrovirals" (AP/Newsday, 3/2).