New York Times Profiles South African ‘AIDS Skeptic’ Peter Mokaba
The New York Times on Sunday profiled Peter Mokaba, a South African political leader who is also an "AIDS skeptic." Mokaba, who is a member of Parliament and a senior African National Congress official, believes that HIV "does not exist and cannot be spread through sexual intercourse, that AIDS drugs are deadly and that the epidemic itself is a fiction created by multinational drug companies hoping to boost their profits by forcing poor countries to buy AIDS drugs and by financing researchers to terrorize the public with lies about AIDS," the Times reports. Mokaba says that people should "stop worrying about South Africa's AIDS epidemic," adding, "The kind of stories that they tell that people are dying in droves? It's not true. It's not borne out by any facts." Although he believes that "something is attacking the immune systems" of large numbers of South Africans, he says that the problems might be caused by malnutrition or other illnesses. Mokaba was defeated during a debate last month in which the ANC formally accepted as a policy position "the assumption that HIV causes AIDS," but some say that the "willingness" of the ANC to debate Mobaka's views is evidence that doubts over the causal link between HIV and AIDS "still simmer within the ruling party," the Times reports. Although some senior ANC officials have distanced themselves from Mokaba's views, a "small minority of very senior [ANC] people" share his opinions, according to Saadiq Kariem, national health secretary for the ANC. Mokaba last month began a campaign to promote his views within the ANC and its allies in the Communist Party and trade unions, and the implications of the campaign could be "enormous and disastrous," Kariem said. Smuts Ngonyama, an ANC spokesperson, said that Mokaba "speaks for himself, not the party" but added that many ANC members share his concerns about the safety of antiretroviral drugs. South African health officials say that the debate within the party has not affected how they care for HIV-positive patients or how they structure HIV prevention programs (Swarns, New York Times, 3/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.