CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African President Thabo Mbeki
Wednesday refused again to acknowledge that HIV causes AIDS
, but said an assumed link did form the basis
of his government's response to the AIDS crisis.
His remarks to parliament during a question-and-answer session
went further toward acknowledging a relationship between HIV
and AIDS than he has since he first questioned the link in
October last year.
"The program of the government in this country is based on this
thesis that HIV causes AIDS and everything in the program says
that," Mbeki said.
But he went on to tell legislators that while the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) could be a factor in the AIDS
pandemic, it could not actually cause the syndrome.
"When you ask the question 'Does HIV cause AIDS?', the question
is: 'Does a virus cause a syndrome?'. It can't....A virus
cannot cause a syndrome.
"The syndrome is a group of diseases as a result of immune
deficiency, of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome," he
Mbeki and his cabinet have refused to concede that HIV is the
sole or primary cause of AIDS and the president has appointed
an international panel, including controversial scientists who
doubt the existence of AIDS, to research the link.
"The basic problem is that many people don't want to study this
question. They are perfectly happy to repeat what is said to be
the conventional wisdom," he said.
Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang refused at a news
conference Monday to answer whether HIV cause AIDS.
AIDS activists have condemned his skeptical stance, saying he
is undermining efforts to halt the spread of the virus that
already has infected more than 10 percent of the population of
The umbrella Congress of South African Trade Unions demanded
this week that the government admit the link, warning that
hesitation was costing lives.
Echoing public concern about the effect of Mbeki's ambivalent
stance, the Mail and Guardian newspaper devoted its front page
Friday to a headline:
"Just say yes, Mr. President."