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2002: Mbeki Distances Himself from Dissidents

By April 2002, in the wake of vociferous international and local criticism, President Thabo Mbeki had distanced himself from AIDS denialists. In April 2002, Mbeki instructed the health minister to write letters to dissidents requesting them not to use his name when signing letters or documents, according to a Sunday Times report. Some dissidents had signed "Member of President Mbeki's AIDS Advisory Panel" in dissident literature.

The report said Mokaba was also silenced by the government and that Mbeki "will refrain from expressing his personal views in public and will instead reiterate the official position when questioned on Aids". However, this was not the last time Mbeki's views on AIDS science were questioned.

In September 2003, The Washington Post reported Mbeki as saying, "Personally, I don't know anybody who has died of AIDS." Asked whether he knew anyone with HIV, he reportedly said, "I really, honestly, don't." At the time, the newspaper reported one in 10 South Africans — nearly 5-million people — was infected with HIV according to government statistics (BBC story).

Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.