Welcome to reality South Africa.
South Africa has an estimated 5.5 million people living with the HIV virus — the highest total of any country in the world and more than one-sixth of the global total. About 1,000 South Africans die each day of the disease and complications like tuberculosis. Even more become infected because prevention messages haven’t worked.
And yet for years, [President Thabo] Mbeki’s government downplayed the extent of the crisis. Mbeki himself doubted the link between HIV and AIDS. His health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang openly mistrusted conventional AIDS drugs and instead promoted the value of lemons, garlic, beetroot and the African potato.
So how many lives could have been saved had Mbeki not denied the link?
A new study by Harvard researchers estimates that the South African government would have prevented the premature deaths of 365,000 people earlier this decade if it had provided antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients and widely administered drugs to help prevent pregnant women from infecting their babies.
The question now: does this level of willful ignorance warrant criminal prosecution?
Because not only is the evidence overwhelming that HIV causes AIDS, it’s also overwhelmingly obvious that lemons, garlic, beetroot and the African potato do nothing to stop it.
But perhaps the shame that Mbeki and his cohorts will feel for the rest of their lives will be prison enough.