Fight Aids in the way you battled apartheid

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August 14, 2006

POLITICAL leaders in Africa have been urged to encourage HIV tests to help fight the spread of Aids and to lift the stigma attached to it.
Jim Yong Kim, the former director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV programme, added that those who defended a person’s right to refuse a test were doing unrealised damage.



Dr Kim said that Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa, was fostering a social crisis by refusing to embrace the reality of Aids.

Speaking to The Times at the start of the 16th International Aids Conference in Toronto, he called for a reappraisal of the role of human rights in the context of rapidly improving treatment options, which have transformed Aids from a death sentence to a chronic disease.

Dr Kim, the director of Harvard’s Francois Xavier Bagnoud Centre for Health and Human Rights, said: “There are people who are still saying that protecting a person’s right not to know [if they are HIV-positive] is the most important thing. But the particular human right is the right to die prematurely not knowing your HIV status. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. The conversation has to change because we now have different tools.”

He singled out South Africa, where an estimated 5 million of its 45 million population are infected with the virus. Dr Kim said: “Even under apartheid, South Africa has never faced anything that’s going to have the kind of impact on black Africans that Aids is having.

“I just wish that Mr Mbeki and the African National Congress would fight it the way they fought apartheid.”




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