Burson helps scientists push AIDS education in Africa

WASHINGTON, DC: As international concern about the spread of AIDS in Third World countries continues to mount, efforts to combat the disease are being undercut by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has publicly supported the unorthodox viewpoint that HIV does not cause AIDS.

WASHINGTON, DC: As international concern about the spread of AIDS in Third World countries continues to mount, efforts to combat the disease are being undercut by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has publicly supported the unorthodox viewpoint that HIV does not cause AIDS.

WASHINGTON, DC: As international concern about the spread of AIDS

in Third World countries continues to mount, efforts to combat the

disease are being undercut by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who

has publicly supported the unorthodox viewpoint that HIV does not cause

AIDS.



Mbeki has allied himself with Dr. Peter Duesberg, who argues that AIDS

stems from factors other than HIV - including drugs used by

pharmaceutical companies to treat the disease.



To clear the confusion created by Mbeki’s statements, a group of

scientists and Burson-Marsteller are working to reinforce public

education programs about HIV/AIDS in Africa and other developing

nations.



An independent group of 250 doctors has created the Durban Declaration,

which reaffirms HIV as the cause of AIDS. Burson healthcare practice

chair Ken Rabin said that the statement is not a personal attack on

Mbeki but rather a means of conveying concern over the potential impact

of his pronouncements.



’Legitimate efforts of prevention and public education could be

subverted at a time when AIDS is threatening Africa,’ he explained.



Working on a pro bono basis, Burson helped arrange a press conference in

Durban yesterday announcing the declaration, which was published in the

prestigious British scientific journal Nature. Burson has also created a

poster and a Web page to publicize the declaration.



However, educating ordinary Africans about HIV/AIDS has proven

difficult.



Ron MacInnis, director of HIV/AIDS programs in Washington for The Global

Health Council, noted that even though AIDS awareness is on the upswing

in Africa, much still needs to be done. ’There’s a lot of stigma and

phobia around discussing HIV/AIDS,’ he said. ’It would help if the drug

companies and other companies would show people with HIV/AIDS living

through it.’



The importance of speaking out was echoed by London-based Interscience

chairman Mark Chataway, who pointed to Uganda’s proactive HIV/AIDS

education efforts and declining disease rates.



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