Australian researchers have estimated more than 300,000 South Africans died unnecessarily from government mishandling of HIV in the period 2000-2005.
A case study by the University of Southern Queensland has slammed former South African president Thabo Mbeki and his Minister for Health for their handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early noughties.
The researchers estimated that delays in implementing a national antiretroviral therapy to provide publicly funded treatment for people living with HIV led to the untimely death of 330,000 people, and cost the South African government around $US15 billion in loss of productivity.
The study highlighted the dire impact political denial and inaction can have, placing most of the blame on Mbeki and his then health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s denial of HIV science.
From the time of his induction in 1999, Mbeki contested widely-accepted HIV science, claiming for a period that AIDS was not caused by HIV. He stalled on providing readily available antiretroviral therapies in the belief that certain therapies were toxic.
Tshabalala-Msimang worsened this by promoting beetroot, garlic and lemon, and general nutrition as the key to combatting the effects of HIV/AIDS.
It took until 2002 for the government to implement a national strategy for handling the HIV crisis which continued to grow until the country had taken the title of having the world’s worst epidemic.

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