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Cablegate: Death of Former Health Minister Shows How Far South Africa

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #2607 3550629
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210629Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0665
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 7456
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 1520
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 9811

UNCLAS PRETORIA 002607

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SF
SUBJECT: DEATH OF FORMER HEALTH MINISTER SHOWS HOW FAR SOUTH AFRICA
HAS MOVED FROM FORMER AIDS DENIALIST POLICIES

1. (SBU) Summary: Former Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
died on December 16 from complications arising from a 2007 liver
transplant surgery. Having served as Health Minister from 1999
until September 2008, Tshabalala-Msimang was the most outspoken
proponent of the Mbeki government's controversial health policies
regarding HIV/AIDS. Many South Africans paid tribute to
Tsabalala-Msimang as a loyal ANC stalwart, but none have defended
her performance as spokesperson for the era of AIDS denialism in
South Africa. End summary.


2. (SBU) When Tshabalala-Msimang took office in 1999, many in the
health sector were optimistic because of her work in the National
Progressive Primary Health Care Network (NPPHCN), her diplomatic
skills, and strong relationships with pharmaceutical companies. She
was also a longstanding ally of new President Thabo Mbeki. Once in
office, however, she quickly became embroiled in championing
President Mbeki's views denying any link between HIV and AIDS, and
attributing the disease to nutritional deficiencies.

3. (SBU) For years Tshabalala-Msimang believed and argued to South
African citizens that using beetroot, garlic, and African potatoes
as nutritional supplements would help fight the disease. She
repeatedly blocked or delayed distribution of ARV drugs, labeling
them poisonous and toxic. (Note: In 2003, she fought and won an
application in the Constitutional Court to prevent the rollout of
Nevirapine to pregnant mother for the prevention of mother-to-child
AIDS transmission. End Note.)


4. (SBU) Meanwhile, former President Mbeki continues to deny that
thousands of South Africans died due to the previous government's
AIDS policy. Addressing the media following the former Health
Minister's death, his spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga told reporters
that the previous government did not deny anyone ARV drugs. He
reported that anti-retroviral drugs have always been part of the
public health system and that people had access to them.
Ratshitanga said the health department, with the guidance of
Tshabalala-Msimang, followed a "holistic approach" to fight HIV/Aids
and does not regret its decision. When asked how Mbeki was taking
the criticism about the previous government policy on AIDS,
Ratshitanga reported that "Mbeki is fine with it as he and the late
former minister never said that HIV does not cause AIDS."

5. (SBU) Comment: The most interesting aspect surrounding
Tshabalala-Msimang's death is that, while many spoke of her service
in the struggle against apartheid, no one, not even Mbeki, attempted
to defend her advocacy of AIDS denialist policies. In just over a
year, Tshabalala-Msimang's stance on HIV/AIDS has gone from being
the prevailing SAG policy to being one that no one is even willing
to acknowledge publicly. Mbeki himself is now denying that he was
ever an "AIDS denialist." End Comment.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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