[Svrilist] News: Rape trial testimony in South Africa sets back AIDS awareness, say NGOs
svri at mrc.ac.za
Tue Apr 11 09:35:08 SAST 2006
FORMER DEPUTY PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA'S THOUGHTS ON THE SPREAD OF HIV/AIDS HAS ANGERED ACTIVISTS
JOHANNESBURG, 6 Apr 2006 (IRIN) - HIV/AIDS activists have expressed concern that testimony by former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma, who is standing trial for rape, might reverse the gains made in creating awareness about the pandemic.
A 31-year-old HIV positive activist has alleged that Zuma raped her at his home in Johannesburg in November 2005. Zuma has claimed that he had consensual sex with the complainant, and told the court this week that he did not use a condom because he believed that the risk of a man contracting the virus from a HIV positive woman was "minimal".
Soul City, an AIDS education NGO, said in a statement that Zuma "continues to assert the untruth that men having intercourse with HIV-positive women are not at risk of becoming infected ... This is the height of irresponsibility in a country where one in nine people is HIV-positive."
South Africa has the world's highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS: close to six million of an estimated population of 45 million are believed to be infected.
Virology specialist Desmond Martin told the court in March that the risk of infection through unprotected sex was three in 10,000 but this increased to one in 100 in the presence of bleeding and abrasions, as in cases of rape.
Zuma, who headed the South African National AIDS Council when he was deputy head of state, told the court that he had taken a shower straight after having sex with the complainant to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
"There is no evidence which supports that showering reduces the risk of contracting HIV. It is disappointing that political leaders are ill-informed about the epidemic," commented Nathan Geffen of the AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign.
The ex-deputy president said his accuser was making "sexual overtures" to him even before the night he allegedly raped her. "If this was the case, the question that needs to be asked is, 'why then did he not make sure condoms were available?'" asked Soul City. It called on the media to ensure that the anti-AIDS effort would not be undermined by reporting on Zuma's testimony.
After being implicated in a high-profile fraud trial related to South Africa's arms procurement programme, Zuma was fired as the country's deputy president in June 2005. His dismissal triggered the worst crisis the ruling African National Congress party has had to deal with since being elected to power in 1994.
Zuma had been regarded as a possible candidate to succeed President Thabo Mbeki, who completes his second term of office in 2009. Zuma's supporters claim he has been a victim of a conspiracy.
Source: AF-AIDS eForum 2006: af-aids at eforums.healthdev.org
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