Research needed on AIDS deaths – Thabo Mbeki

South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that research needed to be done to determine what impact HIV/AIDS was having on the country’s public sector.”We need to do some research to say what the level of deaths is in the public service as a result of natural and non-natural causes,” Mbeki was quoted as saying in the interview with the City Press newspaper.

“… no one has sounded the alarm where I work daily in the Presidency and nobody has said there is a particularly alarming tendency of people dying,” he said.

Mbeki has been criticised in the past for playing down the extent of South Africa’s AIDS pandemic and seldom makes public comments on the issue.

An estimated 5 million South Africans, or one in nine of the population, are HIV positive. Many analysts have said the pandemic is devastating the country’s working-age population and corroding the social fabric of the nation.

The City Press said Mbeki was questioning a study by the state-funded Human Sciences Research Council, which the newspaper said showed that a minimum of 10,000 teachers living with AIDS needed urgent treatment with anti-retroviral drugs.

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