ARE AIDS DISSIDENTS ADVISING SOUTH AFRICA?
By Michael Cherry
Nature 16 March 200
Cape Town -- Leading AIDS dissident David Rasnick has claimed that Thabo
Mbeki, the president of South Africa, requested his scientific opinion
on eight questions related to HIV and AIDS last January.
Rasnick is one of a small band of scientists who claim that HIV does not
cause AIDS. Mainstream AIDS researchers are deeply concerned at the
suggestion that he is advising the South African government.
Mbeki has also allegedly put the same questions to health minister Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang, who has caused concern by refusing to clarify
whether she accepts that HIV is the cause of AIDS.
Rasnick has posted the text of what he claims are Mbeki's questions on
the 'Virusmyth' website (http://www.virusmyth.com), along with his
reply, co-written with another AIDS dissident, the historian Charles
Geshekter of California State University.
According to Rasnick, Mbeki wants to provide a public forum where
proponents and critics of the HIV hypothesis can present the evidence
for and against the assertions that AIDS is contagious and sexually
transmitted, that HIV causes AIDS, and that anti-HIV drugs help people
with the disease.
Rasnick further claims that Mbeki is asking other world leaders,
including US president Bill Clinton, UK prime minister Tony Blair, and
German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, to join him in a discourse about
these issues. Rasnick's Internet posting coincided with an announcement
by Tshabalala-Msimang on the establishment of a panel of experts to
investigate various aspects of AIDS (see Nature 404, 115; 2000).
With Peter Duesberg, his colleague at the University of California,
Berkeley, Rasnick co-authored an article entitled "The AIDS dilemma:
drug diseases blamed on a passenger virus", published in the journal
Genetica in 1998. Duesberg has confirmed that he has not been asked to
sit on Tshabalala-Msimang's panel, but says he has written to Mbeki
confirming his stand on the HIV–AIDS hypothesis. He indicated to Nature
that Rasnick had been approached to participate on the panel.
Tshabalala-Msimang is coming under increasing pressure for her
unorthodox views on AIDS. She was booed by angry activists at a dinner
in Durban last week, at which, referring to the use of antiretroviral
drugs, she said that she didn't want to "plunge into something I don't
This followed a stinging attack by the acting Constitutional Court judge
Edwin Cameron, who is HIV-positive. Cameron criticized the government's
policies on AIDS as causing "considerable grief and confusion", and also
questioned Tshabalala-Msimang's competence as a minister.