LONDON - In a recent interview the leader of the Congress of the People, Moisuoa Lekota, appeared to deny the link between HIV and Aids. For this he was taken to task by - among others - Mike Waters of the DA. In a statement Mr Waters declared:
"In a recent interview on the subject of HIV/AIDS, Congress of the People (COPE) Leader Moisuoa Lekota has revealed that he, and by implication, the whole of COPE is infected with the AIDS denialism of Thabo Mbeki's era. Mr Lekota, like Mbeki, has refused to state that HIV causes AIDS, has prevaricated on whether he is committed to fighting the disease, and has misrepresented antiretrovirals (ARVs) as dangerous poisons."
On Friday 27th February I had a chance to put a series of questions to Mr Lekota for the BBC, while he was on a visit to London. This is a transcript of that interview.
Martin Plaut: Recently there's been controversy about your stand on HIV and Aids. You were given the opportunity of saying there was a link between HIV and Aids. You ducked it, saying you were not a medical man. This is an opportunity for you to make your position clear. Do you believe there is a link between HIV and Aids?
Moisuoa Lekota: Let me say this much. I have never trained medically and I am not trained medically and I would not have a reason to argue with doctors when they say the "virus causes Aids." It is how all of us operate. The virus causes Aids. I accept that. Because I have no other basis to argue with any other medical doctor. And that's how we in government we have approached this question.
Martin Plaut: So there is no suggestion that you are an Mbeki Aids denialist, as people have said.
Moisuoa Lekota: Mbeki has never represented my views or the views indeed of cabinet. He represented his own views. And the unfortunate thing is that simply because we were members of cabinet the assumption has been that cabinet had taken a decision that the virus does not cause Aids. Cabinet has never taken such a decision. It has always been his own views. Why he went into that polemic I don't know. And we voted the budget, the money for the battle against Aids, on the basis of our acceptance of the fact that that is the determination and accepted view in the medical circles.
Martin Plaut: And that is something you personally now accept?
Moisuoa Lekota: I have always... Not now. I have always accepted that!
Martin Plaut: So there is no doubt about that position at all?
Moisuoa Lekota: I have never once... I would challenge anybody to quote me as having said at any given time that the virus does not cause Aids. I have never said something like this. I have never held a view like that.
Martin Plaut: So although you are not a medical person you accept the medical opinion?
Moisuoa Lekota: Oh certainly. Yes. That is what I am saying.
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