BUSH, MBEKI DISCUSS AIDS IN AFRICA
By Sonya Ross
AP 28 June 2001
Washington -- South African President
Thabo Mbeki again refused to link HIV with AIDS,
even though he agreed "that's what the
"I don't think my personal belief is relevant to a
scientific fact,'' he said Wednesday after being
asked whether he thinks the HIV virus is the
primary cause of AIDS.
Mbeki elicited criticism more than a year ago
when he asked a group of scientists to
investigate whether there is a connection
between HIV and AIDS. He also questioned the
need for HIV testing.
During a National Press Club luncheon, Mbeki
acknowledged that scientists confirm a direct
"But it is in ordinary medical textbooks that the
immune system can get compromised by a whole
variety of things, not only a virus,'' he said.
Mbeki said he prefers a comprehensive approach
to dealing with AIDS and South Africa's other
health problems, including malnutrition and a lack
of clean water, which led to a recent outbreak
For example, he said, a doctor treating a patient
with tuberculosis ideally would not only treat the
disease but conditions and factors that would
help prevent the patient from contracting it
"We've got to respond to a human body in a
comprehensive manner and that includes this
issue of HIV,'' he said.
Mbeki said Merck & Co., one of the world's
largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, has
expressed interest in working with the South
African government to examine "these broader
On Wednesday morning, he visited a Merck lab
where researchers are working on an AIDS
"I think everybody in the world would want to
say to the scientists, 'Please keep up the good
work ... our hopes are in your hands,''' Mbeki said
after touring the West Point, Pa., facility.
Merck and other AIDS drug makers have agreed
to lower prices to help African nations hit hard
by the AIDS epidemic.
South Africa has the largest number of people
living with HIV or AIDS -- 4.7 million, about 11
percent of the nation's 45 million citizens.
At the luncheon, Mbeki defended his decision to
skip a U.N. AIDS conference under way in New
"One can't be at two places at the same time,''
said Mbeki, who met with President Bush on
Expressing confidence in the large South African
delegation he sent to the AIDS conference,
Mbeki said, "What the ministers said at the
U.N. AIDS conference is no different from what I
would have said.''