AIDS in the RSA
- "Fighting Apartheid and AIDS: One Down, One to Go"
New York Times (08.09.01)
During South Africa's pre-1994 apartheid era, Pieter-Dirk
Uys gained fame as his nation's most prominent satirist: a gay
Afrikaner who poked fun at his own white society. Now, however,
the comedy of Uys (pronounced ace) is aimed not at racism but
rather at AIDS. In the past, the issue was a white minority
government's commitment to racial separation. Today it is what he
depicts as a black majority government's failure to confront the
Uys's show "Foreign AIDS," running through Friday in North
London's Tricycle Theater, is his latest effort. It includes some
characters from his old shows, like Afrikaner grande dame Evita
Bezuidenhout, as well as new ones, like Dr. Thaboo MacBeki, an
indecisive physician who does not want the facts to confuse him.
Of course, AIDS is hardly a theme that lends itself to comedy.
Adding to the risk, Uys's tirades against President Thabo Mbeki's
well-documented refusal to lead the fight against AIDS could also
land him in big political trouble back home.
"Foreign AIDS" grew out of Uys's crusading tour of 160
South African schools with a free performance called "For Fact's
Sake." That show sought to spread the message that uninfected
South African youths could avoid HIV by changing their sexual
habits, and that infected people still had lives to live. An age
gap, of course, separated Uys from his young audiences. "But as
we talk, I can see the gap narrowing. I'm 56. They're 12 to 13.
We all finish up about 23, united by the same fear," he said.
How does he maintain hope, given the sheer scale of his nation's
AIDS crisis? "The virus of apartheid was cured by democracy," he
said, so why shouldn't it cure the plague of AIDS as well?
"For HIV-Positive South Africans, A Chance to Work and to Live"
Philadelphia Inquirer (08.09.01)::Andrew Maykuth
In South Africa, nearly 30 percent of AngloGold's 50,000
employees are believed to have the AIDS virus. The rate is even
higher among those with TB. Doctors at company-owned Ernest
Oppenheimer Hospital in the heart of the Free State mine region
say it is difficult to persuade workers to submit to an HIV test.
The disease is shrouded in confusion and myth, and few speak of
it openly. "Some of the patients find it pointless," Ebrahim
Variava, a physician at the hospital said. "What can we do for
Soon AngloGold will begin to provide some of its ill workers
with antiretrovirals, the expensive drugs that have
revolutionized AIDS treatment in rich countries. Employers are
struggling to save workers in a country where AIDS is so
widespread that it is a labor nightmare as well as a medical
tragedy. About 20 percent of South Africa's working-age
population is HIV-positive. AIDS medicines are unaffordable for
most of the 4.7 million infected South Africans. AngloGold's
pilot project will help determine whether the company can
administer the drugs on a broad scale to a workforce made up
largely of migrant laborers. The company also hopes to learn how
miners who blast rock two miles underground while hunched over in
four-foot seams in 90-degree heat can bear up under the added
stress of antiretroviral drugs.
The voluntary counseling and testing program and the
antiretroviral pilot project underpin the industry's position
that AIDS is a "manageable" problem and not the financial
catastrophe that some investors fear for South African business.
"The principle benefit of voluntary testing is not to identify
HIV-positive but to identify the negatives and keep them
negative," said Gavin J. Churchyard, head of AngloGold's health
research unit. And even at the deeply discounted rate of $2 a
day, the drugs' cost remains a factor. "How much longer are
people going to live?" asked Brian Brink, medical director of
Anglo American, AngloGold's majority owner. "I can't find anyone
who will give me an estimate. Let's say two, three years of extra
life. You spend a hell of a lot of money to get that additional
time, and you still have to treat it." The miners make about $10