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
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
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
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
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.