- 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
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.''
- 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 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
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
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.
- Some of you have probably already seen this, but CNN has a large feature on AIDS in Africa that is worth checking out...
- 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
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
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
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
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.