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Denialism’s Dark Day

November 2nd, 2009 Posted in Blog | No Comments
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The process may be painful, and at times even deadly, but denialism actually can be defeated. It happened last week South Africa, which was once the world’s unrivaled capitol of AIDS Denialism. In a speech that sent AIDS jubilant activists into the streets to celebrate, President Jacob Zuma said: “We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together … knowledge will help us to confront denialism and the stigma attached to the epidemic.” 

Simple words that have been said thousands of times. But radical nonetheless, because his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, famously and repeatedly rejected the use of Western medicine – particularly antiretroviral drugs – in the treatment and prevention of HIV.  Just nine years ago thousands of researchers gathered at the XIIIth  International AIDS CONFERENCE in South Africa where they felt compelled to issue what came to be known as the Durban Declaration.  The evidence that HIV causes AIDS is” clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous,” they wrote., and meets the “high­est standards of science.” Mbeki’s Health Minister called it an élitist document, and his spokesman said that it would quickly find its way to “the dustbins of the office.”

South Africa had (and still has) the world’s worst AIDS epidemic and Mbeki’s insistence that remedies such as garlic, lemon and herbs would be more effective than proven antiviral medication, directly caused the premature death of hundreds of thousands of South Africans.

It is never easy to defeat HIV, and South Africa will struggle for years to contain the epidemic.  Finally though,  people there can fight AIDS instead of their government.  It’s a start.

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