BOYCOTT THREAT TO AIDS FORUM
By Steve Connor
The Independent (London) 2 April 2000
Leading scientists are planning to boycott an international conference
on AIDS in protest at South Africa's contacts with renegade "experts".
The scientists, who include top British specialists, are furious that
South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, has telephoned David Rasnick, an
associate of Peter Duesberg, a virologist who made a name for himself in
the 1990s by questioning whether HIV causes AIDS. They are also upset
that a country where up to 20 per cent of the population are HIVpositive is
not allowing pregnant HIVpositive women to be given AZT, the anti AIDS
drug, on the grounds that it would be too expensive.
Parks Mankahlana, Mr Mbeki's head of communications, said: "Many
people have spoken to Dr Rasnick and other socalled dissidents and no one
is saying that they believe that the causal connection between AIDS and HIV
doesn't exist." Some critics, however, suspect it was an attempt, which
backfired, to justify Mr Mbeki's opposition to giving AZT to pregnant
women. The Duesberg camp has long argued that AIDS is caused by drugs and
not by a virus.
Organisers of the AIDS 2000 Conference, due to be held in Durban in
July, are now trying to reassure participants that the conference will
still go ahead. Professor Hoosen Coovadia, chairman of the conference,
said: "We could have joined forces to deal with specific shortcomings in
the South African HIV and AIDS programme instead of entering this
However, some British researchers have decided not to go to South
Africa, according to Andrew Leigh-Brown, an HIV specialist at the Medical
Research Council in Edinburgh. "South Africa appears to be the only country
in Africa taking a rather negative attitude to HIV research," he said.