Sunday, December 06, 2009

Enlightenment Dawns In South Africa’s Presidential Palace

I don't know about enlightenment so much. I have become used to hearing African rhetoric, followed by f*** all.

Just like Zuma's hotline, I will adopt a wait and see attitude; not that I really give toss, given that the root cause is a regressive culture.

When the sun rose on World AIDS Day in South Africa last week, it brought with it a dawning of enlightenment that for the past few years had been blocked by dark clouds of ignorance and/or deceit among the country’s leaders.

In a nation ravished by HIV/AIDS, a former president and his administration exhibited an alarming stubbornness — indeed backwardness — in addressing the realities of the epidemic, choosing instead to institute asinine policies and practices that , according to one Harvard study, led to the premature deaths of more than 300,000 people.

Former President Thabo Mbeki, who refused to acknowledge that HIV was the cause of AIDS or that sexual behavior could be a factor, allowed his health minister and others to promote remedies such as lemon juice, garlic and beet roots.

He became indignant when scientists around the world and particularly HIV/AIDS advocates in the West condemned his position.

In a letter to world leaders in 2000, Mbeki implied that Western solutions could not be applied to what he called "this uniquely African catastrophe," noting that "AIDS in the United States and other developed Western countries has remained largely confined to a section of the male homosexual population." In Africa, he stated, "HIV/AIDS is heterosexually transmitted."

A country that has the highest percent of HIV cases in the world — 5.7 million people living with the virus — had a leader who was indifferent to the causes and, therefore, woefully negligent in the proper treatment and prevention of an ailment that was devastating the population.

TheChristian Science Monitor quoted one South African researcher as saying, "By 2015, 32 percent of all young South Africans will have lost one or both of their parents to HIV. This is astonishing. The South African family is in deep crisis."

Mbeki, who served almost two terms (nine and a half years), was forced by the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress to resign last year amid a scandal.

Surviving the scandal was his deputy, Jacob Zuma, who would go on to become South Africa’s third president after the fall of apartheid.

Zuma, while serving under Mbeki, had voiced his own crazy ideas about HIV/AIDS, including that showers could prevent the disease.

So it was a surprised delight to hear that Zuma on the 21st World AIDS Day, on Tuesday, spoke powerfully and passionately about bringing new light, a strong commitment and a mighty sense of urgency to combating a disease affecting 11 percent of the population, most of them women. Twenty-one percent of South African women 20 to 24 years old and 28 percent of pregnant women are HIV-positive.

In a strong patriarchal country, where women are subjected to the wishes of their husbands and often face rape and other sexual abuse, Zuma announced he was expanding the treatments for pregnant women and babies who are HIV-positive. His predecessor was not a great believer in the effectiveness of anti-retroviral treatments.

"South Africa currently provides anti-retroviral (ARV) treatments to 700,000 HIV-positive patients, an increase of 216,000 from last year," according to TheChristian Science Monitor.

In likening the fight against HIV/AIDS to the black South Africans’ struggle against apartheid, Zuma said:

"At another moment of our history, in another context, the liberation movement observed that the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come in our struggle to overcome AIDS. Let us declare now, as we declared then, that we shall not submit."

There have been many individuals and groups in South Africa and throughout the continent, where more than 22.4 million people have been diagnosed with HIV, who have been trying to educate and administer to a population that is losing too many adults and producing too many orphans.

They have struggled against the odds with far too few resources, still combating ignorance and stigmatization, and yet having a few victories along the way.

One of President George W. Bush’s greatest accomplishments in office was to commit to more than $15 billion over five years toward the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, and there were partners on the ground in the continent who were able to make a difference in the lives of millions.

It is good to know that there is now a leader in South Africa, despite his other faults, who has decided to catch up with his people and serve them better by simply entering the world of enlightenment.

Star Telegram

1 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

Go to and and
The hogwash surrounding the issue is just too confusing.
"Aids -end of a civilization" by William Cambell Douglass, MD is a interesting read.