The politics of AIDS in South Africa 8 May 2003
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Gordon Stewart,
Emeritus Professor of Public Health
University of Glasgow

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Re: The politics of AIDS in South Africa

In this article, Fassin and Scheider allege that President Mbeki has "Formally distanced himself from the AIDS dissidents". Having served at the President's invitation as a neutral member of his Panel since 1999, I have to say that I have received no such intimation. The questions which he addressed to this Panel, in my view correctly, remain unanswered. The controversy to which Fassin and Schneider refer would be quickly settled if these questions were debated openly in the light of proposals and investigations submitted by experts on the Panel, perticularly with regard to the reliability of the surrogate tests and definitions used in sub-Saharan Africa for surveillance and diagnosis of HIV/AIDS.

In this context, I should say also that I do not favour restrictions in the judicious use of approved anti-microbial drugs for palliative purposes in individual patients with symptomatic AIDS. If doctors care to prescribe these drugs in the best interests of their patients and on their own responsibility, they should be free to do so but they should be informed of the scheduled risks which should be independently monitored. Any commercial or other conflict of interest should be declared. I have none.

Gordon Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Public Health, University of Glasgow, UK.

Competing interests:   None declared