South Africa dismisses AIDS policy criticism
By Andrew Quinn (AP)Sat , Aug 19, 10:04 AM ET
South Africa dismissed harsh criticism of its AIDS policy by a top U.N. official "with contempt" on Saturday and said he was no Messiah for Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis.
U.N. special envoy on AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis closed a global conference on Friday with probably the most blistering attack ever on South Africa's "lunatic fringe" approach to AIDS, calling it immoral and ineffective.
Lewis' comments, echoed by other speakers at the Toronto conference, represented a diplomatic broadside against President Thabo Mbeki's government, which faces one of the world's biggest HIV/AIDS caseloads. (italics HB)
About five million people, or one in nine South Africans, are infected. (sic)
Health Ministry spokesman Sibani Mngadi issued a statement on Saturday rejecting Lewis' speech "with contempt."
"Lewis is not Africa's Messiah," Mngadi said, detailing South African accomplishments on AIDS including the distribution of millions of free condoms and a free drug program ( *not* ARVs) that now reaches more than 175,000 infected people.
"What Africa needs now is not unsubstantiated attack on democratically elected governments, but delivery on the many resolutions made with regard to addressing poverty and underdevelopment which increases the vulnerability of our population to disease," Mngadi said.