A more diplomatic Makgoba states the facts on HIV/AIDS

When Professor Malegepuru William Makgoba was a 19 year old student at Oxford University he made the observation that more people were being infected with HIV in Africa than the rest of the world.

‘€œNobody listened to me. I hope this time around they will listen to what we have to say.’€

An outspoken critic of AIDS denialists, Makgoba has had his fair share of controversy in his career spanning 22 years.

But yesterday it was a more measured and diplomatic Makgoba who proudly presented his organisation’€™s report on AIDS mortality in SA to the media.

He had clearly not opted to lash out at government’€™s attempts to trash the MRC report that has been reviewed by peers worldwide. ‘€œThis is the best report that has come out of this organisation. You mark my words, 10 to 15 years down the line this report will be alive and many decisions will be based on it.’€

Highlighting the most important findings of the report, Makgoba said the MRC had developed a system of rapidly analysing data to allow policymakers to be ahead of the epidemic.

Secondly the report highlights the fact the highest cause of mortality among South Africa’€™s young people is the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

‘€œThe third finding is what the media has focused on, numbers. But what is important to point out is that the MRC model fits data from the ante-natal survey,’€ Makgoba said.

Makgoba quipped that when you become resource material for cartoonists ‘€œit is time you sought inspiration elsewhere’€.

He says he thought long and hard before seeking inspiration from his three children ‘€“ Makgoadi, a budding English writer, Morithi, a rap artist-artist-cum law student and Mahlatse, a fourth year medical student.

‘€œMy children, like all other children have a future ahead of them. During their lifetime they have to develop and form intimate relationships. They have to negotiate these in the midst of this HIV/AIDS epidemic that is staring all of us in the face and within the context of power relationships that are a feature of such bonds. ‘€œI was advised by them (children) to stick to the facts,’€ Makgoba said.

Makgoba pointed out that the MRC figures and findings were consistent and compatible with:

  • The preliminary 2001 mid-year projections of StatsSA;
  • The UNAIDS Report 2000;
  • The predictions of three other well-established models;
  • Data from Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital;
  • Data from King Edward VIII Hospital;
  • The common experience of the medical and scientific community, the churches, trade unions, morticians and the common South African who buries friends and relatives;
  • The experiences of the mayors of some of the major cities.

Is he relieved that the report is now finally, officially out in the open? ‘€œI am, but this is the beginning of a long process. I hope the findings can now assume meaning in society.’€
‘€“Health-e News Service

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