March 2000

Dear Colleagues,

Although I have not had the privilege to meet with you when I asked trusted colleagues for the names of people who may be willing to assist the South African Government on the question of AIDS in Africa - your name was suggested.

I hope you do not mind an initial contact by email but this was my most rapid option.

I wish to inform you that it has been agreed by the President of South Africa and the Minister of Health in South Africa that an expert group should be convened to consider AIDS in Africa.

The purpose of this fax is to inform you that the Minister of Health should like to invite you to be a member of this expert group.

The expert committee shall consist of about 30 persons from Europe, America and Africa and will meet twice in South Africa. The first meeting will be in March/April. The second will be in June/July.

In the period between meetings an internet think-tank discussion is planned.

  1. The Internet think-tank should be operative for six to eight weeks and participants invited to join but will otherwise be closed.
  2. At the end of the discussion all documentation should be placed in the public domain.
  3. The topic will be structured and limited in time.

The suggested topic for general discussion for both the expert group and the internet will be: AIDS in Africa - the way forward

Should you be willing to join the expert committee I should like to propose the following:

The first meeting of the expert committee should be in South Africa during April. The proposed dates are arrival on the 3rd and departure the 6th. This will allow approximately two and a half days of discussion time. Should it be impossible for the majority of participants to join on this week the previous or following week may be considered on the identical days.

Please let me know as soon as possible your preferences. We will have to make a decision based on the majority that can attend but will let everyone know the final decision.

The expert group will discuss, contextualise, and after the internet discussion hopefully be able to reach consensus on the appropriate ways forward for South Africa in dealing with HIV/AIDS. This may, if appropriate, include direction of future research as well as therapeutic interventions established or novel.

The expert group will also inform the process of the internet discussion and nominate from its members chairpersons to lead and stimulate discussion on the topics outlined below:

  1. Evidence for the viral aetiology of HIV and other concerns regarding the pathogenesis and diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
  2. Therapeutic intervention for opportunistic infections in HIV/AIDS patients in Africa.
  3. Therapeutic intervention to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS in Africa
  4. Role of therapeutic intervention in patients with AIDS in Africa.
  5. Role of therapeutic intervention in patients that are HIV positive in Africa.
  6. Role of therapeutic intervention to prevent the transmission of HIV in vertical transmission in Africa.
  7. Role of therapeutic intervention for post-exposure prophylaxis in Africa.
  8. Role of therapeutic intervention to prevent the transmission of HIV following rape in Africa
  • In all cases consideration should be given to evaluation of the scientific merits of the intervention given the social reality and the poverty that exists n Africa.
  • In all cases consideration should be given to evaluation of the scientific merits of the intervention given the scientific knowledge that has arisen from studies performed or pathological conditions that exist in Africa.
  • The safety and efficacy of any intervention should be considered in the context of the existing health and welfare structures in South Africa.
  • Social and economic considerations will be an essential part of the discussion.
  • Alternative therapeutic approaches should be considered.
  • At the end of the think-tank session the expert committee will then meet in South Africa for its final consensus discussion.
  • The consensus report should be considered for publication in an international journal

Should any person have any concerns regarding these topics and the reasons for selection please contact me and I will provide more details. This process is still open enough to take new ideas and I should be grateful to receive them.

Above is part of the invitation sent by the South African government to a number of scientist.