AFP 1 July 2000

Johannesburg -- In a dramatic bid to quash the new controversy sparked by President Thabo Mbeki concerning the cause of Aids, 5 000 scientists from across the world have signed a declaration stating categorically that Aids is the direct result of HIV.

The declaration - to be known as the Durban Declaration - was released in Paris on Saturday night and comes ahead of an international Aids conference to begin in Durban on July 9.

The declaration, which warns that "countless lives could be lost" unless it is accepted that HIV causes Aids, will be reported in next Thursday's edition of the British science magazine Nature.

In April Mbeki backed "dissident" hypotheses from a number of scientists, notably in the United States, who denied links between the human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) and Aids, asserting that the real causes of lack of resistance against the killer disease were related to under-development, poverty, malnutrition, poor hygiene and local diseases.

The bombshell declaration is expected to dominate discussion at the Durban conference and could see delegates dividing themselves into two distinct camps.

What is also significant is the apparently surreptitious manner in which the signatures were collected and the large number of signatures obtained - two aspects that significantly enhanced the "bombshell' aspect of the declaration.

In the declaration, the doctors and scientists claim they are "refuting revisionist theories" on the cause of Aids, which they blame squarely on HIV infection.

"The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous," said the declaration, which Nature reported was signed by more than 5 000 people, including the directors of top research institutions, scientific academies and medical associations, Nobel prizewinners among them.

"HIV causes Aids. It is unfortunate that a few vocal people continue to deny the evidence. This position will cost countless lives," warned the signatories to the Durban declaration.

"Although HIV-1 and HIV-2 first arose as zoonoses - infections transmitted from humans to animals - both now spread among humans through sexual contact; from mother to infant; and via contaminated blood."

"Like many other viruses, HIV recognises no social, political or geographical boundaries," the statement stressed.

" tackle the disease, everyone must first understand that HIV is the enemy. Research, not myths, will lead to the development of more effective and cheaper treatments, and, it is hoped, a vaccine," it added.

The Durban Declaration may be read as of Monday on the Nature website at, where a list of the signatories can also be found.

The scientific journal reported that while thousands of individual scientists and medical doctors have signed it, researchers working for commercial companies were asked not to do so.