What Price Ideology ? – Mbeki, AIDS and the lost ARV treatment

Reading the New Scientist article on AIDS Deniers (which reminded me a lot of the Global Warming denial farce with its reliance on obsolete results, junk science and people who won’t let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory) I was very disturbed read about an assessment on the number of extra deaths in South Africa caused by the policies of its ex-president, Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki did his best to block the use of ART’s in the treatment of AIDS, despite all the evidence that they were the best treatment. The number of extra deaths due to this is simply staggering, around a third of a million lives lost due to the false ideology that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. 🙁

The journal article referenced for those numbers is called “Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa” and is published at the end of last year in Volume 49 – Issue 4 of the JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The abstract for the paper puts the issue like this:

South Africa is one of the countries most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. At the peak of the epidemic, the government, going against consensus scientific opinion, argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were not useful for patients and declined to accept freely donated nevirapine and grants from the Global Fund.

The cost was truly devastating:

Using modeling, we compared the number of persons who received ARVs for treatment and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission between 2000 and 2005 with an alternative of what was reasonably feasible in the country during that period. More than 330,000 lives or approximately 2.2 million person-years were lost because a feasible and timely ARV treatment program was not implemented in South Africa. Thirty-five thousand babies were born with HIV, resulting in 1.6 million person-years lost by not implementing a mother-to-child transmission prophylaxis program using nevirapine. The total lost benefits of ARVs are at least 3.8 million person-years for the period 2000-2005.

What a price to pay. 🙁