Nelson Mandela Praises South African Government’s Plans for National Nevirapine Program
Former South African President Nelson Mandela said yesterday that he was "relieved" that the South African government may implement a national nevirapine program to prevent vertical HIV transmission by year's end, Agence France-Presse reports. "These are responsible people who could not allow babies to continue to die," Mandela said (Agence France-Presse, 4/22). But Mandela "dismissed" reports that the government changed its stance on antiretroviral drugs because "he entered the fray" (South African Press Association, 4/22). Mandela made these statements as he accepted a $13 million donation by Aventis Pharma to his Nelson Mandela Foundation. The money will be used to fight tuberculosis in South Africa, where 50% of TB patients are co-infected with HIV. The donation will be given over a five-year period, and Aventis plans to build one TB treatment center in each of the country's nine provinces (Agence France-Presse, 4/22).
Mbeki Distances Himself From AIDS Dissidents
Senior South African government officials say that President Thabo Mbeki has "cut informal contact" with "AIDS dissidents" by asking them to stop associating themselves with him, indicating that the president has "come round to accepting the negative impact that the pandemic is having on South African society and the country's image abroad," South Africa's Sunday Times reports. Mbeki has reportedly asked the South African Health Ministry to write to several dissidents who belong to the presidential AIDS Advisory Panel asking them to stop using Mbeki's name when signing letters to the media. Mbeki has decided to communicate with the dissidents only when the advisory council meets. In addition, Mbeki has asked senior African National Congress official Peter Mokaba -- whom the Times calls the "champion ... of the dissident viewpoint" -- to "desist from speaking out on AIDS." Mbeki has also decided to refrain from expressing his personal views on HIV/AIDS in public and will instead "reiterate the official position" of the government when questioned on the issue (Makhanya, Sunday Times, 4/21). In announcing its plans for a possible national nevirapine program last week, a government spokesperson said that the government's decision "is based on the premise that HIV causes AIDS" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/19).