AIDS pseudoscience and politics

In 1998, a number of politicians, including President Mbeki, enthusiastically embraced virodene as an inexpensive therapeutic against AIDS without any scientific evidence. The government’s refusal to give AZT to pregnant women for the prevention of maternal-fetal HIV transmission flies in the face of evidence showing that AZT and nevirapine reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission. This decision poses serious moral and ethical dilemmas in a nation where maternal-fetal transmission of HIV accounts annually for 10% of the total HIV disease burden. Most recently, the politically motivated suggestion, in the absence of scientific evidence, that malnutrition and poverty cause AIDS in Africa is not only absurd but may also represent a form of national denial. South Africa is rapidly becoming a fertile ground for the types of pseudoscience often embraced by politicians. — M. W. Makgoba, President of the Medical Research Council of South Africa, May 2000