BBC News 6 Oct. 2000

President Thabo Mbeki has accused the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of working with drugs manufacturers to promote the link between the HIV virus and AIDS to boost profits.

Mr Mbeki made the comments at a closed meeting of his African National Congress party (ANC) at parliament last week, according to South Africa's weekly Mail and Guardian newspaper.

Mr Mbeki said his own questioning of the link between the virus and the disease meant he posed a threat to the US, Western powers and the world economic order.

Mr Mbeki has been widely criticised by the international scientific community and members of the South African establishment, including Nelson Mandela, for his stance on AIDS.


According to the Mail and Guardian report, Mr Mbeki said criticism of his AIDS policy was a foretaste of foreign attempts to undermine his government.

He said his advisers were trying to find out who was spreading the idea that he was "deranged", and that such reports were part of the campaign against him.

Mr Mbeki repeated an earlier claim that big drugs companies required there to be a link between HIV and AIDS in order to increase their profits.

The comments come at an embarrassing moment.

The government has launched a public relations campaign focusing on a public statement by Mr Mbeki that its policy was "based on the thesis that HIV causes AIDS," and admitting that he may have caused confusion.


It has also launched a campaign to promote the use of condoms in order to check the spread of the disease and combat "confusion" on transmission.

The comments also detract from the existing debate about the expense of anti-HIV/AIDS treatments with many activists saying big drug companies could afford to drop their prices to the developing world considerably.

There are also issues around drug patent rights - a number of companies produce cheap generic copies of HIV/AIDS drug treatments but have difficulty getting permission to market them in the developing world.

Campaigners say the cheapest HIV/AIDS drug available in Africa costs about $100 per person per year but most Africans live on less than $1 a day.