HIV/AIDS DISSIDENTS CLING TO THEIR LINKS WITH MBEKI
By Pule Molebeledi
Business Day (South Africa) 26 April 2002
Johannesburg -- President Thabo Mbeki's relationship with AIDS dissidents looks set to be an
enduring one, in spite of suggestions from within government that they
should stop using Mbeki's name in their correspondence.
Weekend reports said government planned to ask members of Mbeki's AIDS
Advisory Panel who question the link between HIV and AIDS to not sign
themselves that way in correspondence.
Although none of the dissident scientists has yet received such a request
from government, some panel members said yesterday they would continue to
refer to their membership of the panel, even if the panel ceased to exist.
Well-known AIDS dissident Peter Duesberg said yesterday he had received no
correspondence from government, including the health ministry, asking him to
refrain from using Mbeki's name.
Asked if he would stop identifying himself as a member of the panel if asked
to do so, Duesberg said he would not. He also indicated he would continue
referring to his membership of the panel even if it was disbanded.
"I think this would be very simple. If the president decides to terminate
the advisory panel, current members would become emeritus panel members, and
could then correctly describe themselves as emeritus/a of Mbeki's former
AIDS advisory panel."
Responding to the same question, another dissident scientist, Prof Charles
Geshekter of California State University, confirmed his involvement with the
panel and his active participation in meetings between June 2000 and March
last year. "Until I hear otherwise, I assume I am still a member of the AIDS
advisory panel and am permitted to identify myself as such," he said.
Mbeki's spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, said no decision had been taken to disband
the panel or to instruct its members to refrain from using Mbeki's name.
"Rather than focus on who uses what title, people must focus on the
government's comprehensive AIDS-prevention programme," Khumalo said.