n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - The ghost of AIDS denialism : Manguzi hospital and dual loyalty : opinion

Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1608-9693
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6751



On 19 November 2003, the South African Cabinet approved the 'Operational Plan for Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and AIDS'. After years of international protest, court action and unnecessary deaths, the South African government committed itself to a plan 'that provide[d] for Anti-retroviral Treatment in the public health sector. Many activists believed that this event heralded the end of AIDS denialism and what Nattrass terms 'the associated rejection of scientific authority in the regulation of medicine, ... Thabo Mbeki's initial questioning of AIDS science and ... his Health Minister's characterization of ARVs as 'toxic' and her support for alternative, scientifically untested therapies'. Recently, the Department of Health claimed that 478 000 people with HIV / AIDS (PWAs) were accessing ARVs by end of April 2008 and triumphantly noted that South Africa was the country with most people initiated on ARVs in the world.

To initiate almost half a million people onto ARVs in a few years is no small feat, and much of the success of South Africa's ARV programme can be attributed to committed and principled private and public sector health care professionals. These statistics could also be viewed as evidence of government-level refutation of AIDS denialism and its associated phobia about ARVs. Yet recent events at Manguzi Hospital have prompted people to recall the years 2000 - 2003, when AIDS denialism - and the concomitant ethical difficulties that principled health care workers faced in adequately treating and preventing HIV - was at its peak.

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