JOHANNEBSURG (Reuters) - An internal committee of South
Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has urged
President Thabo Mbeki to acknowledge that the HIV virus causes
AIDS, newspapers said on Thursday.
South Africa's Independent Group newspapers reported that the
appeal to Mbeki, who so far has refused to acknowledge the
link, was contained in a confidential document leaked to the
Cape Times newspaper in Cape Town. Confidence Moloto, the
author and deputy chairman of the committee, confirmed the
document's contents but said it was an internal discussion
report and did not reflect ANC policy.
"As that document has been quoted in the media, it talks about
a predominant scientific view that HIV causes AIDS (and this)
is a view that the ANC and its leadership and its membership
have to publicly express," Moloto told Reuters.
"Those are just some of the issues that are being raised in
that document...That is not the key or the center of that
document," he said, refusing to provide the report which he
said was confidential.
"It reviews progress plus identifies gaps in our interventions
in this pandemic. The aim of this document is to stimulate
debate within the ANC toward decisive action against HIV and
The ANC quickly moved to distance itself from the document,
saying its views reflected the author's personal views.
Mbeki Aids Policies Steeped In Controversy
Mbeki's policies over HIV/AIDS, which afflicts 10 percent of
South Africa's population of 43 million, have been steeped in
controversy since he cited personal Internet Research in
remarks last year questioning the predominant view that AIDS is
caused by the HIV virus.
In the clearest explanation of his position to date, Mbeki told
Time magazine last week that HIV could be a cause of AIDS, but
that it was not the sole origin of the disease.
In a statement released on Thursday, the government said the
context of the full transcript of the Time interview made it
clear that "he was prepared to accept that HIV might very well
be a causal factor."
"Neither the president nor his cabinet colleagues have ever
denied a link between HIV and AIDS," the statement said.
Mbeki has, however, set up a panel of doctors including
controversial skeptics about the HIV-AIDS link to reassess the
origins of the disease.
Many scientists and health workers have accused Mbeki of
dithering while people die of a disease that threatens the
continent's economy. The majority of the 34.3 million people
infected with the AIDS precursor -- the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) -- live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which rules in a
formal alliance with the dominant ANC, asked Mbeki last week to
acknowledge the link, saying his failure to do so undermined
efforts to alter sexual behavior that encourages the disease.