SAFRICAN PRESIDENT GOT INFORMATION ON AZT
DANGERS FROM INTERNET
AP 1 Nov. 1999
JOHANNESBURG - President Thabo
Mbeki's remarks that an anti-AIDS medicine was
unsafe were based on information he got from
the Internet, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Mbeki said on Thursday that AZT, a drug widely
used to prevent infections to medical workers
and rape victims and to control mother-to child
transmission, was toxic and being challenged by
court cases in the United States, Britain and
The manufacturer, Glaxo Wellcome, on Sunday
repeated earlier statements that there were no
court cases, and that the drug was fully licensed
under South African, American and other law. It
has asked South Africa's Medicines Control
Council for clarification.
"We have never been made aware by MCC that
there are any safety issues around the drug,'' Dr.
Peter Moore, the company's medical director,
was quoted as saying in the Sunday
Independent in Johannesburg.
Mbeki has a "thick set of documents'' about the
dangers of AZT from the Internet, his media
liaison officer, Tasneem Carrim, told the
newspaper. Mbeki's spokesman Parks Mankahlana
said a statement would be issued Monday.
"The president goes into the Net all the time,''
Carrim was quoted as saying.
With soaring rape rapes and HIV infection rates
among the highest in the world, the South
African government is under pressure to provide
AZT for rape victims and pregnant mothers. It
says the drug is too expensive.
Moore said in Sunday's statement that the
company is worried Mbeki's speech could cause
patients currently using the drug to stop.
"It appears that the President has been gravely
misinformed about the safety aspects of AZT,''
In the same speech, Mbeki dismissed claims that
1.8 million rapes occur in South Africa each year.
He said the figure was based on police estimates
that only one rape out of 36 was reported, but
the police had no idea how the figure was
The Sunday Independent in Johannesburg
blasted Mbeki for the speech: "For a leader
who has shown such statesmanship in the vital
task of making Africa a prosperous continent, it
is surprising that President Thabo Mbeki has not
shown the same dedication to the most injured
citizens in our own country.''