Mandela’s Voice on HIV/AIDS Provides Hope Amid Denial in Much of Developing World, Columnist Says
Former South African President Nelson Mandela last week "became one of the few leaders in the developing world to speak publicly about losing family members to AIDS, bringing hope that others might follow his example," Rachel Giese states in her Toronto Star column. Silence is "as great a contributor as poverty and violence to the spread of HIV/AIDS" in the developing world, she says, noting that leaders of "some of the world's most devastated regions are in deep denial about the cause and prevention of the disease." This denial was demonstrated in June 2001 at the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, where delegates from several Muslim and Christian nations in Africa and the Middle East "dismissed safer sex public education campaigns and lobbied to eliminate references to homosexuals, prostitutes, drug users and prison inmates" in the conference's final document, she says. Denial is also present in South Africa, where an estimated five million people are HIV-positive, she writes, noting that President Thabo Mbeki has questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS. And in China, where HIV infection rates are "rapidly climbing," the government remains "reluctant" to talk about the disease, she notes. However, "amid all of this bad news comes reason for hope" from Mandela, who has become a "high profile advocate in South Africa" for HIV/AIDS awareness and destigmatization, she concludes (Giese, Toronto Star, 9/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.