Premier Helen Zille’s views on HIV are misinformed and unscientific

Writing in her weekly newsletter, the Premier noted that over half of the Province’€™s budget is spent on ‘€œpreventable illness’€, while the ‘€œscraps’€ are given to unpreventable conditions. This, she claimed, ‘€œhas further widened the gap between ‘€œrights’€ and their ‘€œessential corollary ‘€“ responsibility’€. Specifically citing people who contract HIV through ‘€œirresponsible’€ behavior she rhetorically questioned why ‘€œtaxpayers must foot the bill without asking any politically incorrect questions ‘€“ enough already!’€. She later tweeted that ‘€œif you duck responsibility, don’t come running to the state when you need treatment’€.

A few days later ‘€“ at a provincial health summit ‘€“ the Premier went further to say that people who knowingly infect others with HIV should be charged with attempted murder.

The premier’s views are possibly popular across the political spectrum, but they are misinformed and unscientific. This debate is repeated periodically. Here are some rebuttals of the arguments the premier puts forward:

·               Doron Isaacs has written a succinct rebuttal of the criminalisation of HIV.

·               Judge Edwin Cameron has co-authored an in-depth explanation of why criminalisation of HIV is wrong.  

·               Gavin Silber has previously argued against the Premier’s position when she made similar arguments in 2009.

·               Edwin Cameron and Nathan Geffen debated David Benatar on whether a person contracting HIV through his or her irresponsibility has a right to treatment.

This article first addresses arguments about why the Premier’s arguments on responsibility are wrong. We then deal with criminalisation. Finally we deal with the Premier’s concern that HIV treatment is taking resources away from unpreventable diseases.

Read more here:

(This is an expanded version of an article that was published in The Cape Argus on 15 November 2011.   Also published on

Silber is with the Social Justice Coalition. Geffen is with the Treatment Action Campaign.


  • Health-e News

    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

Free to Share

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop

We love that you love visiting our site. Our content is free, but to continue reading, please register.

Newsletter Subscription