STOP TESTING FOR HIV, SAY AIDS DISSIDENTS
SAPA 17 Sept. 2000
Nkozi, Uganda -- HIV testing should be suspended as should policies through
which HIV positive pregnant and breast feeding women were provided with
anti-retroviral treatment, said delegates at a controversial AIDS
conference in Uganda, it was reported on Sunday.
The conference, held earlier this month at Uganda's Roman Catholic Nkozi
Martyrs University, near the capital city Kampala, brought together about
60 "dissident" scientists from Africa, Britain and the United States. They
debated and discussed what they called a "holistic approach to fighting
The dissidents say the real causes of lack of resistance against AIDS are
related to under-development, poverty, poor hygiene and local diseases.
They argue that there is no scientific proof that HIV causes AIDS.
Delegates believe that HIV is only a passenger virus and that AIDS is
caused by other factors.
The Ugandan government has stated that HIV causes AIDS.
Its AIDS Control Programme, which creates awareness to prevent the spread
of AIDS, has been hailed as an international success after HIV infection
rates halved in the country between 1992 and 1996.
The United Nations says that 24,5 million people in Africa are infected
with AIDS, more than 70 percent of the world total.
Delegates at the conference, which released their statement on Sunday, have
recommended that HIV testing should be suspended because the HIV virus had
not been isolated and purified and there was "no gold standard" for HIV
They said AIDS diagnosis varied across the world and a person who was HIV
positive in one country could be HIV negative in another.
It was felt that a positive test result could impact negatively on people's
physical, psychological and social well-being and could lead to
hopelessness, despair and even suicide.
"Patients have the right to withhold their consent to testing for HIV
antibodies and to be treated for presenting symptoms and diseases,"
If testing was done, appropriate pre- and post-test counselling must be
provided at all testing facilities, they said.
The stigmatisation of AIDS and HIV patients must be stopped.
The delegates said the universal promotion of condom use could negatively
impact on "our understanding of ourselves, our identity and all our human
relationships" and undermined interpersonal trust.
"There is a growing concern about the erosion of care and respect for one
another and the importance attached to the community. These values have
been so prominent in many African societies and need to be restored and
Sex education was, however, important for the prevention of known sexually
transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea and contraceptive
information should be widely disseminated to reduce unwanted pregnancies
and abortions which were conducted without medical assistance.
Delegates said immune deficiency prevention must address its many causes in
This would include the cancellation of "crippling" debt repayments, the
establishment of "equitable" economic relationships with wealthy countries,
improvements in nutrition and the development of social and medical
infrastructure, with an emphasis on clean water and sanitation.
This would go hand-in-hand with pollution control and the control of major
epidemic diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.
Delegates said that health workers and non-government organisations' work
should be refocused to educate along these lines.
It was also recommended that proposals to reduce mother-to-child HIV
transmission by the provision of anti-retroviral drugs be reconsidered.
This included the substitution of formulas for breast milk.
There was "overwhelming" evidence that bottle feeding in poor countries
caused death and that anti-retroviral drugs had toxic effects. Delegates
said exclusive breast feeding should be encouraged.
"The treatment emphasis for AIDS must be shifted from the provision of
expensive and toxic anti-retroviral drugs to tried and tested
interventions," the delegates said.
They did not elaborate on what these interventions were.
There was also a need to further research traditional remedies such as
"Current research on developing a vaccine for HIV must be refocused and
reviewed in the light of the questions and doubts about the isolation of
It was also recommended that African scientists should be encouraged to
carry out their own research and an institution dedicated to health
research "in its widest context" should be created in Africa.
The media in Africa should thoroughly investigate and report responsibly on
all HIV and AIDS issues without relying on press releases and reports from
Western countries, the delegates said.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is seen to endorse the dissident
view, met with unprecedented rebuke from the world's scientific community
during a recent AIDS conference in Durban.