ZUMA BACKS MBEKI'S AIDS STANCE
By Steven Mann
Daily Mail & Guardian 20 April 2000
Cape Town -- Deputy President Jacob Zuma has joined the fray in a raging
debate on the government's controversial AIDS policy, saying it would be
fundamentally wrong for the views of dissident scientists, who question
whether HIV causes the disease, to be ignored. Speaking in a parliamentary
debate, Zuma, who is spearheading the government's anti-AIDS drive, said he
believed no scientists had a monopoly on all knowledge about AIDS.
In a letter sent to world leaders -- published by the Washington Post on
Wednesday -- President Thabo Mbeki said it would irresponsible for the
government not to explore all avenues of combating AIDS. "At no point has the
president said that he challenges the view that HIV causes AIDS, or the
contrary," Zuma said. "All we are saying is that the issues must be debated
and all views are considered."
Zuma said Mbeki had received a letter from the San Francisco HIV/AIDS group
ACT UP, stating that the group had been prevented from exhibiting at the
forthcoming 13th national AIDS conference to be hosted by South Africa.
"For the past decade in San Francisco, we have witnessed the destruction of
human life caused by AIDS drugs. We hoped that by exhibiting at the
conference, we could warn participants to prevent a similar catastrophe from
occurring in their countries," Zuma quoted the group's letter as saying.
Most opposition political parties slated the government's approach, saying it
had failed miserably thus far in bringing the pandemic under control. Mike
Ellis, of the Democratic Party, said Mbeki was heading down a scientific
cul-de-sac by challenging the widely accepted view that HIV causes AIDS.
Letter from ACT UP San Francisco to South African President Thabo Mbeki:
The Honorable Thabo Mbeki
Office of the President
Union Building, West Wing
Pretoria 0002, South Africa
April 06, 2000
Dear President Mbeki:
Greetings from ACT UP San Francisco -- the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.
Our group, formed in 1989 as a collective of individuals united in anger, is
the largest ACT UP chapter committed to ending AIDS through militant direct
action. I am writing to inform you of a disturbing act of censorship by the
organizers of the upcoming 13th International Conference on AIDS to be held
Our organization has been denied the opportunity to exhibit at the conference
by Chairman HM Coovadia because we question HIV as the cause of AIDS,
challenge the reliability of HIV tests and warn against the use of toxic,
experimental AIDS drugs. According to the attached letter, signed by
Professor Coovadia and two conference co-chairs, our application for an
exhibit booth was withdrawn because the organizers felt "our attendance will
detract from the ethos and principles of the conference" and that "our
support of the 'Duesberg Theory,' which is inaccurate and harmful and has
been discredited in the international scientific community, can only harm
efforts at HIV openness, cause tremendous confusion among people at risk and
undermine much needed prevention efforts." Furthermore, despite submitting
paperwork in a timely manner, paying all fees and receiving confirmation we
would occupy booth number one, we were later told that our reservation had
been canceled because our attendance "would result in violent and
inappropriate clashes and protests."
For the past decade in San Francisco, we have witnessed the destruction of
human life caused by AIDS drugs. We hoped by exhibiting at the conference, we
could warn participants to prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring in
their countries. Unfortunately, our voice has been silenced by organizers who
have ironically chosen the theme of "Break the Silence" for this year's AIDS
President Mbeki, ACT UP San Francisco feels that if the 13th International
AIDS Conference is not committed to open scientific debate and the free
exchange of ideas it is nothing but a farce and a source of embarrassment to
the hosting nation. Therefore, we respectfully request that your office
investigate this matter of conference censorship and demand inclusion of all
points of view regarding the cause and treatment of AIDS. If conference
organizers fail to comply, we believe that the country of South Africa should
refuse to host the conference.
The members of ACT UP San Francisco would like to relay their admiration for
your courageous stand in challenging the AIDS debacle and focusing on the
societal problems that lead to illness and death.
On behalf of the general body of ACT UP San Francisco
cc: The Honorable Bill Clinton, President of the United States
Letter silencing ACT UP San Francisco's participation in upcoming 13th
International AIDS Conference:
XIII International AIDS Conference
Physical Address: Suite 301, The Station Building, 160 Pine Street, Durban
Postal Address: P.O. Box 1620, Durban, 4000
ACT UP San Francisco
1388 Haight Street, #218
San Francisco, CA 94117
March 14, 2000
RE: NGO Booth at the XIII International AIDS Conference, 9-14 July 2000
After discussion with a number of community organisations in the USA and
internationally, we regret to inform you that we have withdrawn your
application and allocation for an NGO Booth at the above-mentioned
conference. We have done so for the following reasons:
1. We believe that your attendance at the conference will detract from the
ethos and principles of the International AIDS Conference.
2. The International AIDS Conference is the premier scientific conference on
HIV/AIDS. We respect and appreciate different views and strategies that
contribute to finding effective mechanisms to develop and encourage the
scientific and medical advancement of research. However, we feel that your
support of the "Duesberg theory," which is inaccurate and harmful and has
constantly been discredited in the international scientific community, can
only harm efforts at HIV openness, cause tremendous confusion among people at
risk and undermine much needed prevention efforts.
3. Your behavior at the International AIDS Conference in Vancouver and other
HIV/AIDS gatherings have led us to believe that your attendance will result
in violent and inappropriate clashes and protests.
We therefore have no choice but to withdraw your application and allocation
of a booth.
Prof. HM Coovadia
Prof. SS Abdool Karim
Scientific Programme Chair
Dr. C. Mini
Community Programme Co-Chair