Global Politics

South Africa and AIDS

Barbara Hogan's first speech as health minister was not particularly original, but for AIDS activists in South Africa, her message was sweet. She talked about how we know that HIV caused AIDS. Her words brought jubilation to the opening of the International AIDS Vaccine Conference held in Cape Town this week. The new minister gave the opening address. Her words marked a radical departure from the government of the last decade, who've downplayed the impact of AIDS here. In fact, the former government denied that HIV causes AIDS, and analysts have argued this denial has lead to the spread of AIDS in South Africa. This public health advocate expressed his relief at hearing the new health minister's remarks. But the new health minister has the daunting challenge of reorganizing the health department which is hugely demoralized, and blame the former health minister for delaying the bringing in of anti retrovirals, which she believed were money making scams for pharmaceutical companies. Critics say she dangerously misinformed the South African public about the nature and treatment of AIDS. And now it's up to the new health minister to pick up the pieces. Right now, just a tenth of the infected population are receiving anti retrovirals.

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