SA AIDS EXPERTS TO MONITOR HIV TESTING
AFP 5 July 2000
South African government AIDS advisors have agreed to run
a series of tests to pinpoint the nature of HIV in this country
where it has infected a 10th of the population.
The panel, controversially split down the middle between
scientists who believe HIV causes AIDS and so-called
dissidents who do not accept this, vowed that their study will
not try to solve this dispute.
It will instead test the efficacy of HIV tests used in South Africa
and see whether they give an accurate picture of the infection
rate, panel members said after a two-day meeting.
"Their absolute reliability is of utmost concern," said AIDS
dissident Professor Harvey Bialy from the Autonomous
National University of Mexico who briefed the media on the
panel's conclusions along with orthodox AIDS expert Helene
Gayle from the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta.
Bialy however added that the information gathered from the
first study on South African HIV tests could lead to further
studies testing the link between HIV and AIDS.
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
defended the formation of the panel, which has been criticised
for its composition.
She said their job was never to settle the debate between
dissident and orthodox views, but to help the government "find
an African solution" to AIDS which on the continent afflicts
predominantly heterosexuals, and in particular women.
The minister said the outcome of the tests, which could be
concluded by the end of the year or early 2001, will inform the
government's future approach to the pandemic and build on a
five-year plan already in place to combat AIDS through
prevention, education and improved health care.
Tshabalala-Msimang refused to comment on the outburst from
President Thabo Mbeki's office over the publication of a
manifesto by 5 000 AIDS experts stating that HIV causes AIDS.
The declaration came just ahead of the start of the 13th
International AIDS Conference in Durban.
Presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana interpreted the
"Durban Declaration" as a personal attack on Mbeki, who was
seen as questioning the link by appointing dissidents as
If the authors mailed the document to Mbeki, Mankahlana
said, "it will find its comfortable place among the dustbins of the
Local activists and the Congress of South African Trade
Unionists are to stage protest marches in Durban on Sunday
when Mbeki opens the conference.