PRETORIA, May 7 (Reuters) - South Africa appointed leading
American "AIDS dissident" Peter Duesberg on Sunday to a
powerful government team tasked with staging experiments that
could prove or reject orthodox science's view that AIDS is
caused by HIV.
Duesberg will work with the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease
Control and South Africa's Medical Research Council to prepare
experiments to determine whether the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) causes the deadly AIDS.
"They are going to sit and conceptualise experiments that could
be done...this will hopefully put to rest once and for all this
question," Khotso Mokhele, president of the government's
National Research Foundation, told reporters.
Duesberg's appointment came at the end of an unprecedented
two-day meeting of orthodox and so-called dissident scientists
who were invited to Pretoria by President Thabo Mbeki to help
shape South African public policy on the AIDS scourge.
Duesberg's views have gained the ear of Mbeki who has staunchly
defended the rights of all scientists to get their views across
on the AIDS debate, despite a whirlwind of international
scientific and media criticism.
Mbeki, who has questioned the efficacy of the widely used drug
AZT and denied it to pregnant mothers and rape victims on cost
grounds, has waded into a storm of controversy for apparently
giving credence to maverick views on AIDS.
DUESBERG SAYS AIDS CAUSED BY DRUGS, POVERTY
Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology at the
University of California, Berkeley, has denied orthodox
science's view that HIV leads to AIDS.
The cancer pioneer has insisted that AIDS is caused by a
breakdown of the immune system caused by recreational and
anti-HIV drugs such as AZT and by poor living standards.
Elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1986,
Duesberg has since been ostracised by mainstream science which
rejects his theories and fears that debate over HIV-AIDS merely
wastes time in the fight to save millions of lives.
The California-based scientist told Reuters on Saturday he
doubted South Africa was experiencing an AIDS epidemic.
One in 10 South Africans, or 4.3 million people, are
HIV-positive, according to government figures, and AIDS deaths
are set to explode during this decade.
Duesberg would work with the American and South African
institutions over the next 6-8 weeks and prepare a paper to be
presented to Mbeki's advisory AIDS panel at its next meeting in
South Africa in July, Mokhele said.
Eminent orthodox scientists such as AIDS research pioneer Luc
Montagnier are also on the panel personally set up by Mbeki.
Scientists from outside the 33-member panel would be invited to
carry out the experiments suggested by the three parties who
will receive government funding for their work, Mokhele said.
Mbeki's panel meeting in South Africa remained deeply split
along orthodox and dissident lines after two days of heated
debate which the country's Health Minister Manto Tshabalala
Dlamini-Zuma characterised as "mind-boggling."