By Steven Swindells

Reuters 7 May 2000

Pretoria -- South Africa appointed leading American "AIDS dissident'' Peter Duesberg on Sunday to a powerful government team tasked with staging experiments that could prove or reject orthodox science's view that AIDS is caused by HIV.

Duesberg will work with the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control and South Africa's Medical Research Council to prepare experiments to determine whether the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes the deadly AIDS.

"They are going to sit and conceptualise experiments that could be done...this will hopefully put to rest once and for all this question,'' Khotso Mokhele, president of the government's National Research Foundation, told reporters.

Duesberg's appointment came at the end of an unprecedented two-day meeting of orthodox and so-called dissident scientists who were invited to Pretoria by President Thabo Mbeki to help shape South African public policy on the AIDS scourge.

Duesberg's views have gained the ear of Mbeki who has staunchly defended the rights of all scientists to get their views across on the AIDS debate, despite a whirlwind of international scientific and media criticism.

Mbeki, who has questioned the efficacy of the widely used drug AZT and denied it to pregnant mothers and rape victims on cost grounds, has waded into a storm of controversy for apparently giving credence to maverick views on AIDS.


Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has denied orthodox science's view that HIV leads to AIDS.

The cancer pioneer has insisted that AIDS is caused by a breakdown of the immune system caused by recreational and anti-HIV drugs such as AZT and by poor living standards.

Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1986, Duesberg has since been ostracised by mainstream science which rejects his theories and fears that debate over HIV-AIDS merely wastes time in the fight to save millions of lives.

The California-based scientist told Reuters on Saturday he doubted South Africa was experiencing an AIDS epidemic.

One in 10 South Africans, or 4.3 million people, are HIV-positive, according to government figures, and AIDS deaths are set to explode during this decade.

Duesberg would work with the American and South African institutions over the next 6-8 weeks and prepare a paper to be presented to Mbeki's advisory AIDS panel at its next meeting in South Africa in July, Mokhele said.

Eminent orthodox scientists such as AIDS research pioneer Luc Montagnier are also on the panel personally set up by Mbeki.

Scientists from outside the 33-member panel would be invited to carry out the experiments suggested by the three parties who will receive government funding for their work, Mokhele said.

Mbeki's panel meeting in South Africa remained deeply split along orthodox and dissident lines after two days of heated debate which the country's Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Dlamini-Zuma characterised as "mind-boggling.''