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A Durban Dispatch

By Ashok Row Kavi

There is considerable concern here over President Mbeke's inaugural speech on Sunday where he kept on harping on "poverty is the greatest disease" and asked delegates "as scientists and social workers you must keep an open mind at all times". The concern arises from the fact that Mbeke is suddenly being strongly influenced by the Duesberg Group. tmbeki.jpg - 8.84 K President Mbeke

As we all know this is the dissident group that is challenging the established fact that HIV causes AIDS. I've had numerous black journalists and media persons from here asking why everybody "accepts this fact as if it gospel truth". And to our utter horror it is being touted that Malaria is a bigger problem.

There is a hot discussion going on why this is happening. One theory is that with prevalence figures of 32 per cent in South Africa and higher figures in the surrounding nations, there is a certain mental exhaustion creeping in. Where is the money to pour into health HIV prevention programs? Or is it the will?

In some states, it is one out of every two persons who is infected with HIV. In other cases, the economy is on the brink as AIDS eats into miniscule health budgets and in many cases, it is the sheer fact that prevention programs have to move through agile acrobatic strategies to get to vast numbers of people living with HIV.

The Asian countries like India have sent in huge delegations -- Vietnam has nearly 250 delegates while India has over 200 of them who were specially hosted by the Indian Ambassador yesterday.

Everybody wishes to learn from the African experience but the Africans themselves Are amused at the interest shown by outsiders. The Japanese have sent in their researchers safely into Kenya from where they are monitoring the HIV pandemic while the Indian are battling it out in a typical war between NGOs and the government bureaucrats who have turned up in force.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
Durban World Conference, July 9-14: Online Coverage

South Africa "AIDS Dissident" Dispute: Time to Stop and Think

The Politics of Life and Death: Global Responses to HIV and AIDS

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The USA has large contingents from USAID, Family Health International ,IGLHRC and so many others. Everybody is keeping their noses to the ground and working very hard to get a group on where this epidemic is going. It definitely isn't plateau-ing out, forget showing a downward trend.

And Asia waits with bated breath to hear the good news about a vaccine, which doesn't seem to be round the corner.

So the hope is still on condoms and safer sex practices.

But it may surprise readers to know that the best promotion campaigns here have not been able to raise condom usage by over 10 per cent, which goes to show how difficult it is to change human behavior.

The gay and Lesbian community is here out in good force. Especially the Asians ---Dede Otemo from Indonesia, Andy Quan from Phillipiones, the Pink Triangle from Malaysia, Humsafar Trust and Bharso from India, and of course, IGLHRC from San Francisco.

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