Ghanaian Chronicle 19 July 2000

Accra -- The debate over AIDS gained centre stage at the just-ended 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. Much of the debate relate to South African President Thabo Mbeki's skepticism about what causes the disease, and how it is treated. Participants from Western nations walked out when Mbeki spoke because he would not toe the accepted line of the Western AIDS and Medical establishment.

There is no doubt that AIDS is a deadly disease that must be taken seriously. That it is acquired largely through one of the most intimate and necessary human activity makes one forlorn about the disease.

Since it became a world-wide plague, the disease has also become a political and public relations nightmare for any country, group or individual that is closely identified with it. Hence, the etiology of the disease has always remained controversial.

In 1980, Patrick Buchanan (he will be the Reform Party candidate in the November U.S.A. presidential elections), attributed the disease to homosexuals. He called it a 'just retribution from God' against the homosexuals because of their 'sinful' lifestyle.

In the 1980's the American scientific establishment 'traced' the source of the disease to Haiti. Several statistics were published to show the imminent collapse of Haiti as a result of the disease engulfing the population.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Red Cross subsequently banned Haitian-Americans from donating blood.

It was a public relations and economic nightmare for Haiti and Haitians as tourists and investment dollars from overseas dropped. Haitians assembled in Washington in large numbers and marched from Congress to the White House to protest what they saw as unfavourable and unfounded medical claims.

Subsequently, the policy that prevented Haitians from donating blood in America was officially abandoned. Very little has been heard about Haiti and AIDS since.


It was not long before Africa would be mentioned in the same breath as the source of AIDS. But, Edward Hooper, a British journalist, unruffled the AIDS and Scientific establishment when in September 1999, his book 'The River: A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS' (Little Brown & Co, 1104 pages) was published. In this painstakingly researched book, Hooper writes that HIV spread to humans not from the 'natural' result of Human/Chimp encounters as previously believed and trumpeted by the medical and scientificestablishment, but rather from medical experiments done in Africa on Africans in the 1950s with the administration of the oral polio vaccine to humans! The first HIV case in Africa is reported to have been made in 1959!! When I read the book, I shuddered at all the free vaccines that were given to us as school children in the 1960s!

Needless to say, Hooper's views have been ostracised by the scientific and medical establishment.


So has Dr. Peter Duesberg, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, who is described as the 'leading light of AIDS skepticism' and a 'heretic' for questioning the link between HIV and AIDS in 1987. Duesberg also maintains that the truth about AIDS has been suppressed in his book 'Inventing the AIDS Virus' published in 1996.

President Thabo Mbeki consults with all factions of the AIDS debate, and he has asked for 'African solutions' to AIDS in Africa because of the unique manner of infections on the continent. Hence, the accusations that have been levelled at him by the AIDS establishment.

There now appears to be a concerted effort to drum out President Mbeki because he has dared to question some received ideas about AIDS in Africa. Oh, if Mbeki could only trumpet the accepted view, they would hold off a bit. But, here is a guy who has always challenged the received conventional 'wisdom'.

Had he accepted the Apartheid theology, the Afrikaners would be ruling in Pretoria at the moment! The statistics on Africa according to UNAIDS, the umbrella group that co-ordinates the fight against the disease for the United Nations is quite mind-boggling. Of the 34.3 million people in the world who have AIDS -24.5 million of them are in sub-Saharan Africa; 40 million African children will be orphans because of AIDS in ten years; thousands are infected daily! Nearly 19 million people have died of the disease, 14 million in Africa alone.

The American literary figure Mark Twain wrote that there are three types of lies: Lies; Damn Lies; and Statistics! I am tempted to ask, where are the graves of the 14 million who have died in Africa!

I am not discounting the seriousness of the disease in Africa or anywhere. But, quite frankly, the rather constant negative and insidious nature of Western Press reports on AIDS in Africa is rather sickening. It completely dehumanizes us. It appears any African problem is blown out of all proportion. In the 1980s, the chant was the imminent environmental collapse of Africa. And we are still here!

No efforts should be spared in fighting this deadly disease by educating people on promoting safe sex and abstinence, and halting transmission from pregnant mothers to their unborn children. We must be open and frank in talking about the use of condoms, in living a less promiscuous life styles, and clamping down upon 'sex tourists' as Thailand did in curtailing the swarm of Western tourists who flocked Bangkok's bars and night clubs chasing after teenage girls and boys that laws forbade them to chase in the West.

Above all, the chorus of criticism on President Mbeki must stop in order to focus on the pertinent issue of combating the disease in Africa, and especially southern Africa where the largest number are presumed to be at risk.

Bill Gates

It is refreshing to note that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has donated 50 million dollars to assist in the AIDS effort in Botswana; and the U.S.

Congress on July 13, approved increased funding for international HIV/AIDS funding. UNAIDS says about 3 billion U.S. dollars is needed for basic care and prevention in Africa. African leaders must assist in this effort by investing more on Health and AIDS education in their countries, and less on siphoning public funds to overseas and off-shore banks.

If Africa is in so much trouble, then it behooves the AIDS and Medical establishment to appeal to the drug manufacturers who fund their research to make Aid drugs available and cheaply to Africans, rather than engaging in squibs and name-calling.

As Nelson Mandela advised in his closing address to the 13th International AIDS Conference: "So much unnecessary attention around this conference had been directed toward a dispute that is unintentionally distracting from the real life-and-death issues we are confronted with as a country ... a region, a continent and a world... In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people.

History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now."

That sentiment ought to be the guiding light of anyone interested in fighting the AIDS disease in Africa.