JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa sought to draw a line
under the damaging controversy surrounding its handling of
HIV-AIDS by going back to basics on Monday,
delivering a simple message on safe sex and promising to treat
The government took out advertisments in newspapers urging its
citizens to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS by following the ABC
of safer sex--"Abstain from sex, Be faithful to your sexual
partner, Condomise!" Pretoria also said it would unveil new
guidelines on Tuesday on how it planned to tackle human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (AIDS), which threaten to become the country's number
South Africa has one of the fastest growing infection rates in
the world and AIDS already affects one in ten of the country's
43 million people.
The directness of the advertisements was in contrast to months
of confusion sparked by President Thabo Mbeki's stance on the
Mbeki has been greeted with scorn by many in the scientific and
diplomatic community after he doubted the link between HIV and
AIDS and denied anti-AIDS drugs to pregnant women and rape
victims on cost and safety grounds.
Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela last year, has also
attracted controversy by appointing so-called "AIDS
dissidents", some of whom argue AIDS is caused by recreational
drug use, to his own AIDS advisory panel.
"The advert was prompted by the fact that we thought it would
take people back to basics about HIV-AIDS. The political debate
and the semantics debate has taken the ordinary man in the
street away from the basics," said a spokesman for the
Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
Mbeki has said he never denied HIV causes AIDS but believes
others factors, notably poverty, are at the root of the
Press reports said Mbeki had now decided not to comment further
on the AIDS debate after the ruling African National Congress
(ANC) said it was confusing public policy.
A government statement said the Department of Health would
announce nine sets of guidelines on its policies for the
prevention, treatment and support of HIV/AIDS and other
The guidelines will include HIV testing, treatment of
HIV-positive people and prevention of mother-to-child
transmission of the disease.
Earlier this month the health department announced it was
extending trials of the drug nevirapine, which can cut the risk
of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance will make the provision
of anti-AIDS drugs a major campaign issue at local elections in