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  • Christine Chumbler
    AIDS Overtakes War as African Killer By George Mwangi Associated Press Writer Thursday, July 22, 1999; 1:06 p.m. EDT NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- AIDS killed 1.4
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 22, 1999
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      AIDS Overtakes War as African Killer

      By George Mwangi
      Associated Press Writer
      Thursday, July 22, 1999; 1:06 p.m. EDT

      NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- AIDS killed 1.4 million people in eastern and
      southern Africa last year, overtaking armed conflicts as the No. 1 killer in
      the region, the U.N. Children's Fund said today.

      The epidemic, which has hit this portion of the African continent harder
      than anywhere else in the world, has left 6 million children orphaned in
      eastern and southern Africa, amounting to 70 percent of the world's AIDS
      orphans, said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Stephen Lewis.

      Forty-eight percent of the world's AIDS cases are in this region, Lewis
      said during the release of UNICEF's annual report on AIDS. It called for
      emergency action to curb the spread of AIDS in Africa.

      ``Fundamentally, AIDS is spreading and stifling the economic and social
      infrastructure of the entire continent. It is killing the most productive age
      group,'' Lewis said. ``It is doubling and tripling infant mortality rates. It is
      returning life expectancy to the levels of 1960s.''

      ``It is the modern incarnation of the Dante's Inferno,'' Lewis said. ``Never
      has Africa faced such a plague.''

      Worldwide, some 16,000 people daily are infected by HIV, the virus that
      causes AIDS, and there are 8.2 million AIDS orphans, most in
      sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.

      The report warned that AIDS could increase infant mortality in eastern
      and southern Africa by 75 percent and double the death rate of children
      under five in the region in the next decade.

      By next year, AIDS will be responsible for 64 percent of the deaths of
      children under five in Botswana, while the disease is projected to double
      the child mortality rate in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the report said.

      ``The number of orphans in Africa constitute nothing less than an
      emergency requiring an emergency response,'' the report said.

      In Uganda, some 1.1 million children under 15 -- or 11 percent of the
      country's child population -- have lost one or both parents to AIDS, the
      highest number of AIDS orphans in the world. In the developed world,
      that figure is at 1 percent.

      Especially important was educating people on prevention and on building
      tolerance in the region, where AIDS victims are frequently shamed into
      silence.

      Men, more than women, were intolerant of the disease, often refusing to
      be tested or to support wives stricken with AIDS, Lewis said.

      Lewis attacked Western nations for not financing the fight against the
      scourge in Africa.

      ``It is morally indefensible,'' Lewis said, ``That the West is prepared to
      spend upwards of $40 billion to fight war in the Balkans then to engage in
      the economic restoration of Kosovo, and less than one percent of that to
      save the lives of tens of millions of women, children and men in Africa.''
    • Christine Chumbler
      Africa s Aids fate hangs in balance More than half the members of President Mbeki s Aids advisory board deny that HIV causes Aids. By ROBIN MCKIE and DAVID
      Message 2 of 4 , May 8, 2000
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        Africa's Aids fate hangs in balance

        More than half the members of President Mbeki's Aids advisory board deny
        that HIV causes Aids.


        By ROBIN MCKIE and DAVID BERESFORD


        WO British researchers were this weekend enmeshed in one of the most
        bitter scientific controversies of recent years. Virologist Gordon Stewart,
        of Glasgow University, and pharmacologist Andrew Herxheimer, from
        Oxford, have joined an Aids advisory board, set up by President Thabo Mbeki,
        which concluded its second day of deliberations on Sunday.

        The panel - meeting in Pretoria - has provoked widespread political and scientific
        fury because more than half its 33 members are medical heretics. These include
        US scientists Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick, who deny HIV causes Aids.

        The involvement of these dissidents in developing Aids policy in a country in
        which one in 10 of its 43 million people are HIV-positive, and where rates are
        expected to rocket to more than 25 per cent this decade, has dismayed scientists
        and politicians globally.

        Virtually all experts agree Aids is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
        and not poverty, malnutrition and poor sanitation, as the dissidents claim. Dave
        Scondras, one of the few orthodox scientists on the panel, warned that Mbeki
        had to accept scientific studies. "The panel should allow the President to move on
        ... People who deny HIV have never treated Aids, had Aids patients or gone to
        the funerals of friends with Aids," he said.

        Mbeki's bizarre flirtation with the
        Duesberg heresy was apparently born
        of a late-night encounter with the
        dissidents during a presidential
        cyber-surfing expedition. This led
        Mbeki to write a letter to various heads
        of state, including Clinton, in which he
        compared the treatment of Aids
        dissidents with the burning of heretics at
        the stake.

        "The day may not be far off when we
        will once again see books burnt and
        their authors immolated by fire by those
        who believe that they may have a duty
        to conduct a holy campaign against the
        infidels," he wrote. Horrified US state
        officials first thought the letter a bizarre
        hoax. When they saw it was genuine,
        they leaked it to the the Washington
        Post.

        Just how much sympathy Mbeki's extraordinary views will get from the two
        Britons on his panel is not hard to judge. From Gordon Stewart, he is likely to get
        a great deal. Stewart, an emeritus professor at Glasgow University, has made no
        secret of his open support for Duesberg's stance, and claims there is a conspiracy
        to prevent such views being made public.

        "Colleagues and I attempting to publish have met an unholy alliance intent on
        rejecting any papers that offer serious criticisms of the orthodoxy," he says. "The
        mainstream journals and media - whenever they are presented with reasonable
        doubts about Aids - close ranks like regimented clams."

        In fact, Stewart's anti-HIV views were given extraordinary prominence by the
        Sunday Times in the Nineties when then editor Andrew Neil claimed Britain had
        only two heroes "when it comes to the truth about Aids". One was Gordon
        Stewart. (The other was the paper's science writer Neville Hodgkinson.)

        Then scientists developed drug cocktails, called protease inhibitors, which
        disrupted HIV replication and halted the development of Aids in patients. The
        fact that an anti-HIV drug could be used successfully to treat Aids victims made
        nonsense of the claims of Stewart and his supporters that the virus had no link
        with the disease. But they continue to peddle their conspiracy.

        The second British scientist on Mbeki's panel is in a very different class. Andrew
        Herxheimer is a respected pharmacologist - based at the UK Cochrane Centre in
        Oxford, part of the NHS Research and Development Programme - who believes
        radical changes should be made to pharmaceutical licensing regulations in order to
        make them cheaper to manufacture in the Third World.

        He has also criticised Glaxo Wellcome, manufacturer of the anti-Aids medicine
        AZT, for not releasing data from trials with the drug.

        Herxheimer has come to the attention of Mbeki and his advisers. They are
        horrified at the cost of the drug - which is known to help block the transmission of
        HIV from infected mothers to their children - and have rejected requests for it to
        be given to pregnant women, even though one in three expectant mothers are
        now believed to be HIV positive in many parts of South Africa.

        Many observers believe Mbeki is in denial. By rejecting any link between HIV
        and Aids, he can therefore avoid taking the necessary, extremely expensive
        actions. Medical experts are outraged. "South Africans are burying husbands,
        wives, relations and friends every day," said Ashraf Grimwood, chair of the
        country's Nationals Aids Convention in New Scientist last week. "People are
        terrified."

        The influence of scientists such as Herxheimer, and other 'orthodox' panel
        members such as Scondras and the French scientist and co-discoverer of HIV,
        Luc Montagnier, will therefore be crucial in dissuading Mbeki from his current
        Aids policy, and in saving thousands of lives.

        It would also stem widespread criticism of Mbeki. Professor Mamphela
        Ramphele of Cape Town University, a doctor, has warned there is a "lack of
        respect for a scientific base for health care planning" in South Africa coupled with
        a "subtle but visible anti-intellectualism seeping into the body politic". The
        government stance on Aids was "nothing short of irresponsibility, for which
        history will judge it severely".

        What worries many intellectuals in South Africa is the manner in which Mbeki,
        after centralising political power in an expanded presidency, has isolated himself
        within a phalanx of 'yes men' and has shown himself intolerant of press criticism.
        Meanwhile, Aids continues to ravage his country.
      • Christine Chumbler
        Some of you have probably already seen this, but CNN has a large feature on AIDS in Africa that is worth checking out... http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/aids/
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 7, 2000
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          Some of you have probably already seen this, but CNN has a large feature on AIDS in Africa that is worth checking out...

          http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2000/aids/
        • Christine Chumbler
          Traditional Herbal Care Can Reverse AIDS Symptoms HARARE (All Africa News Agency, July 24, 2000) - A two-year research to investigate the effects of
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 25, 2000
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            Traditional Herbal Care Can Reverse AIDS Symptoms

            HARARE (All Africa News Agency, July 24, 2000) - A two-year research to
            investigate the effects of traditional herbal remedies on HIV progression has
            found that some of the medicines are capable of reversing AIDS symptoms.

            Although the herbs cannot reduce viral load, they have been found to boost
            immunity in people infected with HIV virus.

            Preliminary results of the laboratory research conducted in and around the
            Zimbabwean capital here by the Blair Research Institute, working with traditional
            healers, concluded that there are positive effects of traditional herbs on
            HIV/AIDS.

            In an interview recently, the director of the Blair Research Institute, Dr Stephen
            Chandiwana, said the research had concluded that natural herbs played a crucial
            role in people infected with diseases.

            The "open label clinical trial" showed that patients put on traditional treatment
            had their immunity improved and were more relieved of opportunistic infections
            than those purely on conventional treatment.

            The study was prompted by claims by some traditional healers that they had
            found a cure for the deadly disease. It was sponsored by Old Mutual Zimbabwe
            and the Netherlands Embassy from June 1996 to May 1998.

            Chandiwana said 200 people living with HIV/AIDS were selected to take part
            in the research.

            Half of them were put under the care of a traditional healers but were not
            stopped from taking conventional treatment while the remainder were purely on
            conventional treatment.

            Participants were placed in three categories: HIV-positive people who had no
            symptoms, those with symptoms and those with advanced compromised
            immunity due to HIV.

            Indicators of disease progression like CD4 cell count and viral load were closely
            monitored.

            Consultants reviewed the patients every month. It was observed that the viral
            load in those taking herbs remained stable while for those on normal care it had
            increased.

            Chandiwana said the results also showed that improved management of HIV
            infection produced fairly sustainable improvement in clinical condition of patients.

            The study had established that a number of people infected with the HIV virus
            were relying on traditional medicine.

            The fact that there was no statistical viral load could be interpreted in two ways.
            First, it was most likely that the herbs used had no anti-retroviral properties.

            Second, it could also mean that patients could have got worse if their viral load
            had been left to increase.

            "The study has demonstrated that scientists can carry out reasonably informative
            studies with traditional herbalists to provide some insights into the potential
            management of HIV using herbs," Chandiwana added.

            The challenge for scientists was now to try and delineate the active ingredients in
            the herbs, Chandiwana said. He regretted that the traditional healers involved in
            the study had declined to disclose what they had given the patients.

            A project to be undertaken in collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe to
            investigate the contents of some of the herbs would soon be embarked on.
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