S. African President Needs To ‘Control His Rage,’ Lead Sub-Saharan Africa Out of HIV/AIDS Crisis
South African President Thabo Mbeki has "seized" on the country's history to "complicate, delay and frustrate" attempts to fight HIV/AIDS, columnist Roger Cohen writes in an International Herald Tribune opinion piece. When Mbeki last month was asked by a white member of Parliament if he believed that rape played a role in the spread of HIV and whether he planned to "play a more active role" in fighting HIV, Mbeki said that the government would "continue to improve access to quality health care" and then "embarked on a diatribe against the 'disease of racism'" and "portrayals of South African blacks as 'lazy, liars, foul-smelling, diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage and rapist,'" according to Cohen. Mbeki has "suggested that poverty, white stereotyping of blacks and various conspiracy theories lie behind AIDS while appearing reluctant to state, in a declarative sentence, that HIV causes AIDS," Cohen says. Mbeki "seldom mentions AIDS" and has made "no attempt" to "take a lead role that would naturally be his in fighting HIV in sub-Saharan Africa," Cohen writes. The South African government last year promised to provide antiretroviral drugs at no cost to as many as 1.4 million HIV-positive people in the country within five years, but the program has "been slow" to start, Cohen says. "I understand Mbeki's anger," Cohen writes, concluding, "But [he] needs to control his rage and act fast to lead his country and all sub-Saharan Africa out of the AIDS crisis. The number of deaths already in the pipeline is staggering. Little coffins are no vengeance for apartheid. Black intelligence is" (Cohen, International Herald Tribune, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.