CRITICS SAY AIDS REPORT HAS ACHIEVED NOTHING
SAPA 5 April 2001
The government on Thursday ran into a storm of
criticism over the report of its controversial
presidential AIDS advisory panel.
Opposition parties condemned it as a waste of
resources, while organisations working in the AIDS
field said it could even harm the fight against the
The 134-page document fails to resolve any of the
key controversies that led to the formation of the
panel, among them whether HIV causes AIDS.
Instead, the report proposes a series of further
experiments around the reliability of HIV testing and
a review of AIDS data.
'A total of 250 000 South Africans are living with
Democratic Alliance spokesperson Dr Kobus Gous
said the panel's "peculiar" composition - split evenly
between orthodox and dissident scientists - had
doomed it to be an expensive failure.
The DA was appalled to note that, based on the
report, the government would claim to be justified in
denying anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive
pregnant mothers and rape survivors.
"A total of 250 000 South Africans are living with
AIDS, not to mention the 5-million who are
HIV-positive. Will the president consider asking them
for their opinion on the report?" Gous asked.
African Christian Democratic Party spokesperson
Jo-Ann Downs said the document was "like
contractor's PVA, which is a very expensive version
In layman's terms, the call for further experiments
and research meant the people producing the report
wanted an extended season of remuneration, she
'We can't wallow in the luxury of this kind of
Mark Heywood, head of the AIDS Law Project, said
the report had achieved "almost nothing".
"It hasn't moved us from A to B. If anything, the
lack of resolution is bad for public health and HIV
prevention in South Africa."
Dr Ashraf Grimwood, chairperson of the National
Council on AIDS, said the panel had been an
expensive exercise that had caused ground to be
lost in the fight against AIDS.
"In a sense, what we have done with this long and
very expensive debate is put back a lot of years'
work, especially among young people," he said.
If the report did not indicate that HIV caused AIDS,
"then it's a very serious situation".
"It means it will continue the undermining of a lot of
the activities we are undertaking to address this
very serious issue.
"We can't wallow in the luxury of this kind of
confusion. We need to move on," he said.
Government communications spokesperson Joel
Netshitenzhe confirmed that President Thabo Mbeki,
whose Internet courting of dissident views led to
the formation of the panel, had read the report.
Presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said the
presidency had nothing more to say on the issue at