Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
4 July 2010

The story of Selinah: WWMS?°

Listening to SAFM this morning, I was alerted to the advert below, showing in the most stunningly visual and moving manner that those who question(ed) the link between HIV and AIDS and the potential benefits of anti-retroviral treatment have a lot to answer for. Wonder what former President Thabo Mbeki would make of it.

Writing to then leader of the opposition, Tony Leon, Mbeki said the following in 2000:

In your letter to me of June 19, you make the extraordinary statement that AZT boosts the immune system. Not even the manufacturer of this drug makes this profoundly unscientific claim. The reality is the precise opposite of what you say, this being that AZT is immuno-suppressive. Contrary to the claims you make in promotion of AZT, all responsible medical authorities repeatedly issue serious warnings about the toxicity of antiretroviral drugs, which include AZT.

On 28 October 1999, Mbeki told the members of the National Council of Provinces:

Two matters in this regard [the demand to make AZT available in the public health service] have been brought to our attention. One of these is that there are legal cases pending in this country, the United Kingdom and the United States against AZT on the basis that this drug is harmful to health. [This claim was untrue.] There also exists a large volume of scientific literature alleging that, among other things, the toxicity of this drug is such that it is in fact a danger to health. These are matters of great concern to the Government as it would be irresponsible for us not to heed the dire warnings which medical researchers have been making. I have therefore asked the Minister of Health, as a matter of urgency, to go into all these matters so that, to the extent that is possible, we ourselves, including our country’s medical authorities, are certain of where the truth lies.

And of course the later Minister of Health also had rather dangerous and bizarre views on the matter. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang, launching an anti-TB campaign on 15 March 2003 said the following:

In my heart I believe it is not right to hand them [AZT and other ARV drugs] out to my people.

The late Peter Mokaba, who died tragically under the influence of this denialism told The Star the following on 4 April 2002:

We have seen colonization, we have seen imperialism, we have seen apartheid … and all of them used against us as a people. [Africans have] won their liberation and now they are fighting another war and they are being psychologically terrorised once more because people want to sell [ARV drugs] and make profits. And there is no benefit in those products. The only thing that can really happen is that once you touch the antiretrovirals you can go one way.

This is the story behind the advert.

° What Would Mbeki say.

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