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'There's no govt Aids crisis' in South Africa Pres. Mbeki says
  26/02/2006 16:40 - (SA)
Jimmy Seepe and Mapula Sibanda
Johannesburg - President Thabo Mbeki is adamant that the public service is not facing a major HIV/Aids crisis.
This is despite the fact that the government does not know the extent of the ravages of Aids on its public servants.
Asked if the government was faced with a national crisis because of the increasing number of public servants dying in the pandemic, Mbeki said no one had raised the alarm to indicate the effects of Aids on government employees.
Speaking at his official residence, Mahlamba'Ndlofu, Mbeki said he had not been provided with any information indicating that public servants at different levels of government, like teachers, were dying.
"We need to do some research to say what the level of deaths are in the public service as a result of natural and non-natural causes.
"People die from anything... 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.
Serious concern in education circles
"There has not been any indication... in the presidency, nobody has said we are losing 10% of our staff every year because of Aids."
Mbeki's statement follows a recent report about a serious concern in the education sector about the number of teachers living with Aids and who will die if they do not receive antiretrovirals (ARVs).
The findings come from a study by the Human Sciences Research Council that was commissioned by the education labour relations council last year.
It covered more than 20 000 respondents in 54 districts countrywide.
The study said a minimum of 10 000 teachers living with Aids urgently need to be put on ARVs. It called for swift intervention from the education department to save the teachers.
But, Mbeki dismissed the report as highly speculative.
"Nothing has been said by anybody like the thing you are indicating (the teachers' report) - that you have got this kind of wastage as a result of Aids. I have not seen any such thing."
Mbeki this week questioned the statement by the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) about the large number of teachers dying from the disease.
He said he had asked Sadtu to provide him with facts to substantiate its claim, which it did not do.
'Speculative reports' slammed
Sadtu president Willie Madisha said: "We relied on the HSRC which provided us with information after its study indicated that about 12.7% of teachers had HIV while 10 000 were in need of immediate ARV treatment," he said.
Mbeki conceded there was a need to research the level of attrition in the public service because of natural and unnatural causes.
Slamming speculative reports that the government could not act on, Mbeki compared the latest reports with the Metropolitan report that examined the effect of Aids on business by saying, " terms of the effect on the economy , they say it is not significant - that's what Metropolitan Life said".
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