Mbeki Faces Unexpected Questioning About Views on HIV/AIDS, Nevirapine at Press Conference
During a press conference on Sunday, South African President Thabo Mbeki faced an "unscheduled flurry" of questions from reporters about his views on HIV/AIDS, the South African Press Association reports. As the press conference, called to address Africa's "revival plan," was nearing an end, reporters began questioning Mbeki about his beliefs on the link between HIV and AIDS and the use of antiretrovirals to treat the virus. Mbeki, who has "drawn sharp criticism" in the past for "flouting conventional scientific views that HIV causes AIDS," did not offer "a direct reply" to reporters about his beliefs about the cause of AIDS, instead telling reporters, "My views are irrelevant to this matter. I don't know why it is important." When journalists "pushed" him for a reply, Mbeki added, "I don't know why the importance of this question. You should ask the question of scientists." Mbeki was also questioned about why the South African government opposes the use of nevirapine and other antiretrovirals, to which he replied, "No, no. You see, we will need a bit of time to discuss this -- the facts and not the prejudices and beliefs. ... There is a whole range of matters that need to be answered before you can roll out. So, I don't know what you mean when you say opposition." Mbeki redirected remaining questions by describing his government's pilot program to test the use of nevirapine to prevent vertical HIV transmission, SAPA reports. Mbeki stated, "We will go through with that program and see what the results say before we take any further decisions" (South African Press Association, 4/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.