Logo Mediaproject 200

2001: Mbeki Questions HIV Testing

On April 24, 2001, an interview between investigative journalist Deborah Patta and President Thabo Mbeki was aired on e.TV, a South African independent television channel.

Patta asked the president whether he would take an HIV test. Mbeki replied:

"So the matter of whether I take an HIV test or not I think is irrelevant to the matter. It might be dramatic, and make newspaper headlines … [Patta (interrupting):] But would it not set an example — the president takes an AIDS test? Mbeki: No, but it would be setting an example within the context of a particular paradigm … Now I don't believe that stunts — publicity stunts — help in addressing the health needs of our people …"

Mbeki also referred to the experiments that were being conducted by the Presidential Advisory Panel to interrogate the HIV test.

"Let's deal with the science of it. The panel said one of the things we have got to do is to determine when you do an HIV test, what is the test testing. And those were the scientists: what is it measuring? So I go and do a test, I'm confirming a particular paradigm. It doesn't help in addressing this health need."

He also continued his defence for not providing AIDS drugs on grounds of toxicity:

"So, do I go down the street dispensing these pills knowing from the best science there is that there are these consequences which science itself says we don't know enough? No."

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.