AIDS PANEL TO QUESTION ACCURACY OF SA HIV TESTS
SAPA 5 July 2000
Johannesburg -- The main reason for
the establishment of the Presidential
AIDS Advisory Council had never been to determine the link between
HIV and AIDS, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said in
Johannesburg on Tuesday.
"It has been wrongly reported in the media that our main goal is to
determine whether HIV causes AIDS.
"We established the council to discuss possible reasons for the high
occurrence of the disease in Africa," she told Sapa after a media
briefing on the second round of discussions by members of the council.
Tshabalala-Msimang said there was rising concern among health
officials that South African HIV tests were inaccurate, causing
"We are very concerned. We have been a bit concerned about our own
data. We are not very sure of the numbers ... it is logical (that we) ...
want to improve our data," the minister said.
Dr Harvey Bialy, of the Autonomous National University of Mexico, told
reporters the council decided that a study group should determine the
accuracy of South African HIV tests.
The results of the study would be available by the end of the year.
Bialy was contradicting an earlier statement to the media by the
president of the SA National Research Foundation, Khotso Mokhele,
that experiments would be conducted to determine whether HIV
causes AIDS. He also said those results would be available before the
end of the year.
"He (Mokhele) became a bit overexcited," Baily said.
However, he said the information gathered from the first study on
South African HIV tests, could in the far future lead to further studies,
testing the link between HIV and AIDS.
"Our first priority is delivering accurate on true infections," he said.
Baily said other HIV/AIDS related tests would be conducted in due
He said there was another theory that HIV normally gets transmitted
from mother to child, implying that the disease is not fatal.
"But those studies will not be done in the immediate future," he said.
Tshabalala-Msimang said the results of the analysis on South African
HIV tests would form the basis for the country's future approach
towards the pandemic.
President Thabo Mbeki set up the Presidential AIDS Advisory Council to
advise the government on how to fight the pandemic and test
assumptions about AIDS.
The scientists on the council met for a first round of discussions at the
beginning of May. After that, they continued their talks for six weeks
over the Internet.
The final round of meetings took place on Monday and Tuesday.
Tshabalala-Msimang on Sunday appealed to scientists to stay focused
on the main issue - assisting the South African government in saving
"Our focus has always been to proide a platform for open constructive
dialogue so that we can learn and get ideas on how to
comprehensively respond to the challenge we face."
The panel is made up of more than 30 scientists enlisted by South
Africa, who were reportedly evenly split between experts questioning
the link between HIV and AIDS and those subscribing to the
Mbeki has come under fire in recent months for reportedly saying that
he was not convinced that HIV was the single virus causing AIDS or
death attributed AIDS.