Sapa15 Dec. '00

President Thabo Mbeki's statement during his current visit to Brazil that scientists don't know what they are looking for when testing for HIV, "puts us right back to square one", the Democratic Alliance said on Friday. Every time Mbeki made a statement on this topic he put his foot deeper in his mouth, DA spokesperson Dr Kobus Gous said.

The president would be well advised to leave medical matters to the medical experts, and to refrain from making any more statements on HIV and AIDS, which could damage South Africa's reputation - and his own - even further. Mbeki's "continuous flirting" with AIDS dissidents puts him increasingly out of touch with the rest of the world.

"We were promised that the president's panel of scientific experts would release their report by the end of this year.

"But that date has now been shifted to early in the new year," Gous said. The DA did not expect any surprise findings or revelations in the report. "We expect that the panel will only tell South Africans what we know already." In the meantime, thousands of South Africans are dying from AIDS every day. "And coincidentally, Mr President, they were all HIV-positive," he said.

Mbeki arrived in Brazil on Wednesday, on an official state visit to that country, as well as to attend and address the opening ceremony of the Mercosur Summit.