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S.Africa's ANC Group Pushes Mbeki on HIV-AIDS Link
Emelia Sithole
September 14, 2000
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 AIDS."

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.