South Africa Overcoming Its Aids Delusion
Living in a world of delusion not only denies the truth, but also has enormous consequences for those around you. Such is the nightmare South Africa faces now as it seeks to become a showpiece to the world in its preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Our Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, has just announced that in the 11 years from 1997 to 2008, due to the spread of Aids, our death rate has doubled. He said, “That is obviously something that cannot but worry a person.” What an understatement, especially when the figures show that in 1997 there were approximately 300,000 deaths, while in 2008, 756,000. Most of the Aids-related deaths were among young people, especially women, while 57% of child deaths in 2007 were HIV-related.
His announcement was “magnanimous” because the ruling party doesn’t easily pronounce stats pertaining to what is going on in the nation. Some feel it’s a strategy signalling the Zuma Dispensation’s clear break from the past administration of Thabo Mbeki, seen to be responsible for this shocking state of affairs. Mbeki, you remember, would not accept that HIV caused Aids, and his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, embarrassingly urged the eating of vegetables above the use of antiretrovirals. No doubt they bear the brunt of responsibility, together with all those who supported them. Most bizarre of all is that in Jacob Zuma, we have a President who believed that you could protect yourself from AIDS by having a shower.
South Africa now has its Antiretroviral Programme, although thousands still die daily. Hopefully our delusions are finally dissolving. But what do we say to the families left behind whose loved ones could still have been alive? How do they find justice, and who needs to be brought to book for this unimaginable neglect.