"If it makes you feel good....." 17 May 2003
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Peter J Flegg,
Consultant Physician
Blackpool Victoria Hospital,
UK, FY3 8NR

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Re: "If it makes you feel good....."

I thank David Rasnick for updating me on the activities of members of the Presidential AIDS Panel. I hope that progress on the outstanding questions can be properly addressed. If my memory serves me correctly, was the report on the validity of the HIV antibody tests not published recently?

I doubt, however, whether individual visits from members (Giraldo) to South Africa count as "meetings of the Advisory Panel".

What is clear from browsing South African news reports on the web is that there has been continuing and increasing disapproval of Mbeki's flirtation with dissidents such as Rasnick, particularly since the Government seemingly conceded the reality of a link between HIV and AIDS, and the value of therapy in the scenario of mother to child transmission (even if they have been dragged kicking and screaming into this acceptance by the high court).

Rasnick says that the Health Minister has sanctioned his use of the term Presidential Panelist (1). The report quotes the minister as saying "If it makes him (Rasnick) feel good to sign himself that way then he can do it. I can't stop him." This hardly sounds like an unqualified endorsement to me. The report also states "Rasnick has been reportedly irritating government health officials with a flood of letters, proclaiming that HIV was harmless and not contagious".

More recent news reports reveal the continuing unease about the use of the title "Presidential Panellist" in dissident communications (2). Business Day records the following: "(the)State's about-turn on drugs raises questions over his (Mbeki's) relationship with David Rasnick and Peter Duesburg, who question the link between HIV and AIDS. There have been discussions among senior members of government aimed at getting the socalled HIV/AIDS dissidents to stop misusing President Thabo Mbeki's name. Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said that the matter had been discussed at some levels of government "but these discussions did not involve the President"."

An outsider trying to make sense of the situation might well conclude that the South African Government doesn't know what to think or say about the HIV situation. For that matter, I doubt if any insider really knows either. Rasnick may not have recieved direct instructions from the powers that be on use of his "title", but I wonder if this is a result of the SA Government's cognitive paralysis on the issue, or fear that any positive action might provides Mbeki's critics with a propaganda coup. After all, was it not Rasnick himself who said there was a CIA-led conspiracy to target Mbeki, with "millions of US dollars being spent to monitor and neutralise" him?(3)

1) No Stopping This AIDS Dissident. Business Day, Johannesburg, September 14, 2001.

2) Officials Urge Aids Dissidents to Stop Misusing Mbeki's Name. Business Day, Johannesburg, April 22, 2002.

3)Dissident Supports "Plot Against Mbeki" Theory. Mail and Guardian, Johannesburg, May 10, 2001.

Competing interests:   None declared