SA AIDS timeline 1982 – 2003
The first two official AIDS deaths in South Africa were recorded in 1982. This timeline tracks the course of the epidemic in South Africa from then until now.
The first two official AIDS deaths are recorded.
· The Department of Health reassures South Africans that AIDS only poses a threat to ‘homosexuals’.
· ‘Homosexuality is not accepted by the majority of the population and certainly not by the Afrikaans speaking population. To advocate that homosexuals use the condom is therefore very difficult,’ says Dr Coen Slabber, Director General of the Health Department.
Government sets up an AIDS advisory group that includes immunologist Reuben Sher.
· ‘Although a relatively small number of cases has been diagnosed so far in South Africa, the disease certainly has the potential to become a major problem.’ — Dr Willie van Niekerk, Minister of Health and Population Development.
· The Chamber of Mines identifies 130 employees with HIV/AIDS. Alarmed by the potential threat posed by ‘foreign’ mineworkers, government passes regulations allowing non-citizens with HIV/AIDS to be denied entry or deported.
· ‘Promiscuity is the greatest danger, whether one likes it or not.’ Dr Willie van Niekerk, Minister of Health and Population Development.
· PFP spokesperson on health, Dr Marius Barnard, asks that HIV/AIDS ‘carriers’ be isolated.
· The contracts of HIV positive mineworkers from surrounding countries are not renewed.
· Government launches its first AIDS awareness campaign but R4-million of the campaign’s budget is spent on the ‘Info song’, to promote the Department of Information.
Dr Reuben Sher warns that HIV/AIDS could become ‘a biological holocaust’.
“Everyone must strive for themselves and those closest to them to change their risky sexual behaviour and settle for a single sex partner, preferably within a marriage.’ – Dr Rina Venter, Health Minister.
· In 1990 the first antenatal surveys to test for HIV are carried out, and 0.7% of pregnant women test HIV positive.
· ‘Those of us in exile are especially in the unfortunate situation of being in the areas where the incidence of this disease is high. We cannot afford to allow the AIDS epidemic to ruin the realisation of our dreams. Existing statistics indicate that we are still at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in our country. Unattended, however, this will result in untold damage and suffering by the end of the century,’ Umkhonto we Sizwe leader Chris Hani tells a meeting in Maputo.
For the first time, the number of heterosexually contracted HIV infections is equal to that of homosexually contracted infections.
The National AIDS Convention of South Africa (NACOSA) is formed to begin developing a national strategy to cope with AIDS. The free National AIDS helpline is started.
The National Health Department reports that the number of recorded HIV infections has increased by 60% in the previous two years.
Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma accepts the NACOSA strategy as the foundation of the government’s AIDS plan.
NACOSA’s appeal for AIDS to be located in the President’s Office is refused.
· NACOSA holds a briefing on AIDS for Members of Parliament, but only 14 MPs attend.
· Public outcry over government’s allocation of R14,3-million to Sarafina II, a play supposed to educate South Africans about HIV/AIDS. No proper tender procedures were followed, the educational content of the play is questionable and hardly anyone gets to see the play.
‘The vision which fuelled our struggle for freedom; the deployment of energies and resources; the unity and commitment to common goals ‘ all these are needed if we are to bring AIDS under control. Future generations will judge us on the adequacy of our response,’ President Nelson Mandela tells a meeting in Switzerland in one of his few speeches that mentions AIDS during his presidency.
* An Inter-ministerial Committee on HIV/AIDS is established in Parliament
· Government replaces the Medicines Control Council after it refuses to fast-track approval for Virodene, the AIDS treatment promoted by Mbeki and Nkosazana Zuma, which is later found to contain a toxic industrial solvent.
· Government decides not to make AZT available to pregnant women.
· 9 October: The ‘Partnership Against AIDS’ is launched by then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki to mobilise all South Africans to work together.
· 10 December: Treatment Action Campaign is launched
· ‘There also exists a large volume of scientific literature alleging that, among other things, the toxicity of [AZT] is such that it is a danger to health,’ Mbeki tells the National Council of Provinces on 29 October, in the first public indication that he is starting to question orthodox views about HIV/AIDS.
· 2 December: The Department of Health has its first contact with AIDS ‘dissidents’ when Charles Geshekter meets Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
· January: President Mbeki contacts dissident David Rasnick and asks his help to answer a number of questions about HIV and AIDS.
· May 6: Mbeki establishes Presidential Advisory Panel on AIDS consisting of orthodox and ‘dissident’ scientists to look at issues such as ‘what causes the immune deficiency that leads to deaths from AIDS’.
· July: South Africa hosts the International AIDS Conference in Durban. Prominent scientists issue the ‘Durban Declaration’ outlining that HIV causes AIDS. Presidential spokesperson Parks Mankahlana says it belongs in the dustbin.
· The Sunday Times publishes an exchange of letters about AIDS between Mbeki and DA leader Tony Leon. In these, Mbeki claims that racist notions about African sexuality and rape are driving notions about the AIDS epidemic.
· ‘The government constantly invents new obstacles and when they are resolved creates further obstacles to pursue an unscientific policy.’ ‘ TAC press statement, August.
· September: During a debate on AIDS in Parliament, Mbeki says that ‘a virus cannot cause a syndrome’ and warns that “if any Members of Parliament are taking these [antiretroviral] drugs, they need to have a look at that otherwise they are going to suffer negative consequences”.
· 26 October: Presidential spokesperson Parks Mankahlana dies. While there is official denial that he died of AIDS, a document later circulated in ANC circles claims that he was killed by ARV drugs.
· ‘Is our government treating the lives of over four million predominantly poor black people as dispensable?’ TAC press statement, 1 June.
· 21 August: TAC, Dr Haroon Salojee and the Children’s Rights Centre file a motion in the Pretoria High Court intended to compel the Health minister and provincial MECs to make nevirapine available to all women who give birth in state hospitals.
· September: Mbeki questions the accuracy of incidence of AIDS death statistics.
· ‘And thus does it happen that other who consider themselves to be our leaders take to the streets carrying their placards, to demand that because we are germ carriers and human beings of a lower order that cannot subject its passions to reason, we must perforce adopt strange opinions, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from self-inflicted disease,’ says Mbeki in an address at Fort Hare University, 12 October.
· December: The Pretoria High Court orders government to provide nevirapine to all pregnant women deemed by superintendents of state hospitals to need it.
· ANC leader Peter Mokaba distributes ‘Castro Hlongwane, Caravans, Cats, Geese, Foot and Mouth and Statistics’ within the party. The document claims that those who oppose the AIDS dissidents are inspired by racist beliefs about African promiscuity. The document’s embedded electronic signature is later traced to Mbeki.
· February: TAC and Medicins sans Frontieres announce that they are importing ARV drugs from Brazil.
· 5 April: The Constitutional Court upholds the ‘nevirapine judgement’.
· ‘The denial of the facts about AIDS is not only an outrage against the truth. It is a profound insult to those South Africans who are living with and dying from the effects of the virus.’ ‘ Judge Edwin Cameron, 13 April.
· 17 April: Cabinet decides that ARVs should be made available to all rape survivors as post-exposure prophylaxis, and that government should examine ways to introduce ARVs into public health.
· 9 June: Outspoken AIDS dissident and ANC leader Peter Mokaba dies of ‘natural causes’.
· August: Anglo-American says it will give its workers ARVs.
· December: “South Africa cannot afford drugs to fight HIV and Aids partly because it needs submarines to deter attacks from nations such as the US,” the Guardian quotes Minister Tshabalala-Msimang as saying.
· 14 February: 10 000 people march at the opening of Parliament calling for ARVs for all those who need them.
· 27 February: Finance Minister Trevor Manuel almost doubles funds for AIDS treatment.
· March: Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang appoints AIDS dissident Roberto Giraldo as her nutritional adviser.
· ‘We voted for this government, we accept its legitimacy and its laws. But we cannot accept its unjust policy on HIV/AIDS that is causing the deaths of more than 600 people every day. Today we break the law to end an unjust policy not an unjust government.’ — TAC at the launch of its civil disobedience campaign, 20 March.
· ‘Personally, I don’t know anybody who has died of AIDS. I really honestly don’t.’ Thabo Mbeki says in an interview in the Washington Post on 25 September.
· 19 November: Cabinet gives the go-ahead to a comprehensive AIDS treatment plan that will offer free ARVs in all districts of the country.
· Minister Tshabalala-Msimang continues to advocate a diet of beetroot, olive oil, African potato and garlic for people with HIV.
· Government is criticised for taking too long to offer ARVs in all health districts.