Mbeki Acknowledges Communication Problems on HIV/AIDS, Asks South Africans to ‘Take Responsibility’ for Their Sex Lives
South African President Thabo Mbeki yesterday acknowledged that the government has not communicated its message on HIV/AIDS successfully and urged all South Africans to "take responsibility for [their] health," the South African Press Association reports (South African Press Association, 4/24). Mbeki, who has publicly questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS, said in an interview with South African Independent Newspapers that it is "critically important that I ... communicate correct messages" on the disease. He added, "I think if people are told the truth they can get through this. And it is necessary to tell the truth repeatedly." Last week, Mbeki chaired a cabinet meeting that resulted in a "radical" government turnaround on HIV/AIDS. Although the panel "stopped short" of stating that HIV does in fact cause AIDS, it said that the government would act on that "premise" and endorsed the use of antiretroviral drugs to treat rape survivors at public hospitals. The cabinet also unveiled possible plans to offer universal access to nevirapine for HIV-positive pregnant women next year (Boyle, Reuters, 4/24).
Making a 'Major Impact'
Mbeki yesterday urged South Africans to take the lead in protecting their own health. "You need to inculcate into the minds of people that they, too, have a responsibility for the[ir] health. You can't be going around having hugely promiscuous sex all over the place and hope that you won't be affected by something or the other," he said. Mbeki added that a "major impact" could be made on public health by treating curable diseases such as tuberculosis, regardless of whether the person is co-infected with HIV. "Otherwise you are taking someone and [saying]: I sentence you to death. That is wrong. We can't send people home to die. We need a comprehensive response to the health problem." He added that the HIV/AIDS problem "could be solved" with a "sense of compassion and concern about the people" (South African Press Association, 4/24).
HIV/AIDS Raising Costs of Gold Mining in South Africa
HIV/AIDS has raised the costs of gold mining in South Africa by $4 to $6 an ounce, and costs could rise to $9 an ounce if nothing is done to control the epidemic among miners, according to a statement released by AngloGold Ltd., Reuters reports. However, the company has instituted "a range of activities" that have "reasonable prospects" of reducing AIDS-related costs, Chair and CEO Bobby Godsell said. AngloGold employs about 44,000 South Africans; 25% to 30% are thought to be affected by HIV/AIDS (Reuters, 4/24).