Tags: South | African | Doctors | Scapegoated | for | AIDS

South African Doctors Scapegoated for AIDS

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

And about a dozen Western doctors have gone into hiding in Gauteng province near Johannesburg after receiving death threats, and many other South African doctors are being shunned by patients because of a stubborn rumour mill accusing doctors, especially white doctors, of deliberately infecting patients with the HIV virus, leading to the deadly Acquired Immune Defiency Syndrome.

News of the proposed draconian parliamentary move against the medical profession in South Africa came last Wednesday from a general practitioner from Pretoria, Dr. Ezio Baraldi, chairman of a symposium on sexually transmitted diseases during the annual World Congress of Family Doctors (Wonca) in Durban last week. He called the proposed government measure "draconian" and was "deepened saddened by it," he said.

The HIV-AIDS epidemic raging in the southern African region featured high on the agenda of Wonca, which represents 150,000 family doctors in more than 60 countries. The latest U.N. AIDS figures indicate that more than 60 million people worldwide are already affected by the deadly HIV-AIDS epidemic - but South Africa tops the list: more than 4.7 million already have HIV or suffer full-blown AIDS, with thousands of young parents now routinely dying from the disease syndrome in this country, leaving an annual 20,000 children orphaned at the moment.

Dr. Baraldi said the South African legislative proposal had been included in two government White Papers (new bills) tabled recently in parliament by the country's health minister Manto Shabalala-Msimang. She had withdrawn her first White Paper but in her resubmission included the measure against medical practitioners once again.

A research professor at the University of Natal medical school in Durban, professor Jerry Coovadia, commented that a similar plan was not being contemplated anywhere else in the world - and he didn't think it would help in the fight against AIDS.

"It might even negatively affect the relationship between doctor and patient," Coovadia warned.

Shocked South African HIV-AIDS campaigners in the Treatment Action Campaign and the AIDS Foundation said they had not even been aware of the government plan.

"That's blaming the messenger, in this case the doctors for this epidemic instead of addressing the underlying causes, namely lifestyle problems leading to HIV-transfer to victims," one AIDS Foundation spokesman said.

He pointed out that the South African government had recently started prosecuting a group of doctors and nurses in a rape crisis counseling clinic for "illegally" dispensing antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transfer to the rape victims.

"The South African government clearly is beginning to blame the medical profession for the epidemic itself, and this is an ominous development to seek a convenient scapegoat very similar to the situation in Libya," he said.

Rumours worldwide blame Western medical practitioners:

The Libyan government recently charged a Bulgarian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses with infecting 337 Libyan teens with HIV-AIDS after six of these teens had died. The six Bulgarian medical people had been arrested three years ago at a Libyan hospital, after they had identified the youngsters with HIV+ status.

The devoutly Muslim government of Libya, headed by Col. Muammar Gadaffi, insists that sexual behaviour leading to HIV-AIDS infection does not occur in his country, and that the European medical people had worked in league with the Israeli and American secret service to infect his population. The Bulgarians told their government representative of repeated tortures in jail to extract confessions.

Many influential black Web sites repeat claims that the HIV virus was originally created in a CIA laboratory to deliberately infect the world's black population - claims that black consciousness movements in Africa and the Caribbean continue spreading in a persistent propaganda campaign against Western medical practice via their own print media and the Internet.

Meanwhile, in South Africa this week, the Johannesburg-based radio station Radio 702 also reported Monday that police authorities are beginning to have considerable success in trying to stop the high infection rates of young children by HIV-infected rapists.

The net is now closing in on large numbers of policemen who allegedly habitually had started abusing small girls, some as young as 12, in the local tribal belief that raping virgins would cure them of HIV-AIDS.

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And about a dozen Western doctors have gone into hiding in Gauteng province near Johannesburg afterreceiving death threats, and many other South African doctors are being shunned by patients because of a stubborn rumour mill accusing doctors, especially white doctors, of...
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2001-00-21
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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