One of the world’s top scientists, Professor David Ho, yesterday begged President Thabo Mbeki “not to let your legacy be defined by inactivity on this human catastrophe” of HIV/AIDS.

The president’s inability to clearly state his views on the disease has led many delegates to assume that he has been won over by AIDS “dissidents” who do not believe HIV causes AIDS.

At virtually every presentation, scientists have prefaced their discussions by stating – usually to loud applause – that HIV causes AIDS.  

Nobel prize-winning scientist Professor Luc Montagnier, a member of Mbeki’s presidential panel on AIDS, said yesterday that HIV/AIDS was a “complex disease of the immune system introduced by a virus”.  

However, another member of the panel, AIDS “dissident” Professor Charles Geshekter, claimed in a pamphlet distributed yesterday that “poverty, not sex, causes AIDS”.

Presenting his latest research on HIV, the  Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Centre’s (ADARC) Ho, painted a picture of a very complicated virus which produces over 10 million mutant viruses every day once a person is infected.

He added that there appeared to be a “life-long reservoir of infected cells” in an infected person which decreased “very, very slowly with drugs”.

But Professor Anthony Fauci offered a window of hope for those permanently on antiretroviral drugs. Fauci’s pilot study showed that intermittent therapy – seven days on drugs, then seven days off – may be possible once an HIV positive person T-cells in their blood had been stabilised by drugs. – Health-e News