S Africa's Zuma Testimony pushes back Aids battle
08 April 2006 06:00
When former deputy president Jacob Zuma took the stand to defend himself against rape charges this week, he gave an explanation that one doctor and activist said took "20 steps back" in the campaign to increase awareness of the risks of HIV/Aids.
Zuma told the court on Tuesday that he was HIV-negative and that he had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman because the risk was not great enough to warrant concern.
"I had made a decision at that time," Zuma said. "I knew the risk I was facing, but I believed it was small."
But the message that this defence sends is a harmful one, especially to young men, according to activists and organisations working in HIV/Aids prevention. It disregards the risks associated with HIV/Aids and contradicts the messages that Zuma has given out in the past.
"Zuma really doesn't understand his risk," said Susan Goldstein, senior manager for research at Soul City, an NGO that works in health and development. "He may be less at risk than women by not using a condom, but he is still at risk."
The fact that Zuma has multiple sexual partners - a key risk factor in the spread of HIV/Aids - makes his risk of contracting HIV even greater than it might first appear, she said. While it's true that the risk of infection in one individual case of unprotected sex is small, this risk becomes magnified as one's number of sexual partners grows.
Zuma's history in the fight against HIV/Aids is also troubling in light of his testimony. He was head of the moral regeneration campaign and chairperson of the South African National Aids Council. In these capacities he repeatedly spoke about the risks of HIV/Aids.
Said Jonathan Berger, researcher at the Aids Law Project: "The fact that he has a lot of support and that he's known to be someone who is generally more knowledgeable about HIV than many - that's where the danger lies."
Still, the message is out there. Said David Harrison, CEO of loveLife: "We're going to have to move into damage control mode."
S Africa Politico Zuma's HIV courtroom revelations
Last Updated: Saturday, 8 April 2006, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
By Peter Biles
BBC southern Africa correspondent
South Africa's former deputy president, Jacob Zuma, is on trial for rape. It is alleged that he attacked a family friend, who is HIV positive. Mr Zuma denies the charge.
The nation has absorbed intimate details of what may or may not have happened on the night in question, some of which have appalled many local Aids activists.
Every morning at 0900, a convoy of luxury cars with blue lights flashing, sweeps into Pritchard Street in downtown Johannesburg.
They pull up outside the High Court - a granite, domed building, and men in black suits emerge from the vehicles.
Presidential-style, Jacob Zuma's bodyguards form a phalanx around his car, and then trot into the yard at the back of the court.
On the street outside, the diehard Zuma supporters cheer and sing, but are held back by the police.
During the five weeks since this trial began, their numbers have dwindled markedly.
This time last year, though, Mr Zuma was the second most powerful person in the land - deputy president of South Africa - and a strong contender to succeed Thabo Mbeki when he steps down in three years' time.
Mr Zuma certainly had many of the right credentials to lead this country.
He was a fighter in the ANC's liberation struggle, a prisoner on Robben Island for 10 years, and a former head of intelligence when the ANC was in exile.
Now though, Mr Zuma has suffered a dramatic fall from grace.
He is on trial for rape, with the details of his sex life splashed across the newspaper front pages day after day.
It is more than most people can stomach, but there is no respite.
We now know, at the very least, that Mr Zuma had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, half his age, who says she regarded him as a father figure.
She used to call him Malume - the Zulu word for uncle - because her late father and Mr Zuma were once comrades-in-arms.
The legal teams
Inside Court 4E, the atmosphere is always expectant.
Former SA deputy president Jacob Zuma
Zuma's comments about HIV have angered Aids activists
There is no jury system in South Africa, and the sole arbiter in this case is Judge Willem Van Der Merwe, described by the press as a "courteous, anglicised Afrikaner".
He is best known as the man who sentenced the notorious apartheid assassin, Eugene de Kock, to multiple life terms for murder in 1996.
On the left hand side of the court, sits the prosecution team, led by Advocate Charin De Beer.
She is the one who subjected Jacob Zuma to two gruelling days of cross-examination.
She too, is Afrikaans. Her command of English is strong, but sometimes rather quaint.
At one stage, she put it to Mr Zuma that he had "tippy-toed" down the passage to see if the complainant was sleeping, shortly before the alleged rape.
Facing the judge is the Zuma defence team, headed by the Dickensian-looking Advocate Kemp J Kemp.
With his tangled mop of hair and ill-fitting legal attire, the papers call him "Unkempt Kemp".
But although he is a virtual stranger to criminal trials, he is no slouch, and is regarded as one of the best defence lawyers in the country.
Finally, there is Mr Zuma himself. First sitting in the dock, and then taking his seat on the witness stand when he was called to testify.
He chose to speak in Zulu, with the aid of a court translator, although it soon became clear that Mr Zuma's English may well be superior.
Frequently, he would lean over to assist the interpreter.
Zulu culture has featured rather heavily in this trial.
Mr Zuma is described by his followers as "the 100% Zulu Boy".
Under cross-examination, he was asked why he had taken the risk of having sexual intercourse with a woman who was HIV positive, when he had no condom available.
He explained unashamedly, that in accordance with Zulu tradition he had been brought up to understand that a man could not abandon a woman in a state of arousal, otherwise she might become infuriated, and accuse him falsely of rape.
In other words, he had had no choice but to carry on.
If that was not bad enough, Mr Zuma told the court he thought the risk from HIV was small, and that he had taken a shower immediately after the sexual intercourse on the night in question, because - he believed - it was one thing that might reduce the chances of contracting HIV.
These assertions came from the man who was head of the National Aids Council and the Moral Regeneration Campaign.
This is someone who should have expert knowledge of the threat of Aids in a country where more than five million people are HIV positive.
Local Aids activists and supporters of the complainant who have been picketing the court, have been horrified and outraged by Mr Zuma's comments.
They say it has set back South Africa's battle against HIV and Aids by many years.
One of the country's top cartoonists, Zapiro, summed it all up with a sketch about "The Jacob Zuma Moral DE-generation Handbook".
Under a code of ethics, is Point 3: "Before casual unprotected sex, remove brain and place on bedside table".
SAfrica AIDS activists angered by Zuma HIV remarks
06 Apr 2006 13:52:25 GMT
By Paul Simao
JOHANNESBURG, April 6 (Reuters) - South African AIDS activists on Thursday condemned former Deputy President Jacob Zuma for controversial remarks about the disease during four days of testimony in his high-profile rape trial.
Zuma, who is accused of forcing a HIV-positive woman to have unprotected sex with him, astounded observers on Tuesday when he told a Johannesburg court that he had not been at much risk during the encounter with his accuser on Nov. 2, 2005.
Saying it was difficult for a healthy man to get HIV from an infected woman, Zuma, who once led the southern African nation's anti-AIDS campaign, raised more eyebrows the next day when asked why he had showered immediately after having sex with the woman.
"It was one of the things that would minimize the risk of contracting the disease," said Zuma, who denies raping the 31-year-old family friend at his home in Johannesburg.
Zuma's testimony, which concluded on Thursday, came as South Africa battles a huge AIDS epidemic. The southern African nation has the world's largest AIDS caseload, with up to 5 million of its 45 million people carrying the virus that causes AIDS.
There is growing concern that Zuma's example could prompt some South Africans to underestimate their risk of infection, leading to a jump in unprotected sex and other risky behaviour.
Zuma, who says he is HIV-negative, is one of the country's most popular politicians despite facing the rape accusation and separate corruption charges that could end his political future.
MYTHS AROUND HIV
"I hope his testimony does not create myths around HIV. These are indeed myths," said Nathan Geffen, a spokesman for the Treatment Action Campaign, the country's best known AIDS activist group.
Soul City, a group that works to battle AIDS, alcoholism and other problems in South Africa, called Zuma's assessment of his risk of contracting HIV from his accuser as "irresponsible" and chastised him for not using a condom.
Activists said it was especially worrying to see political leaders demonstrating a lack of basic knowledge of the disease. President Thabo Mbeki's government has been frequently criticised by groups who say it has downplayed both the AIDS crisis and the efficacy of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, the only treatment known to slow the course of the disease.
The government introduced a public ARV treatment programme in late 2003 but the national rollout has been slow and only slightly more than 40,000 people are enrolled.
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Thursday the department's HIV/AIDS budget had grown six-fold between 2001 and 2005 and an additional 3.2 billion rand ($533.6 million) had been allocated for ARV drug procurement over a three-year period ending in 2007.
Zuma claimed credit for steering South Africa's AIDS battle during his leadership of the the National AIDS Council, a position he relinquished when he was sacked as deputy president last year.
Zuma was once seen as the leading candidate to succeed Mbeki when his current term expires in 2009.
Analysts say his testimony about AIDS has raised questions about his suitability for the presidency even if acquitted in the rape trial and a separate corruption trial in July.
I had cows ready for her lobola, says Zuma
By Jenni Evans and Amy Musgrave
AS THE finer details of his attitudes to sex and Aids came under scrutiny in his rape trial yesterday, Jacob Zuma said he would have had his cows ready if his accuser had agreed to marry him.
Zuma also agreed in the Johannesburg High Court that he had apologised to his alleged victim's mother when he finally met her, but said it was only to address the effect that her daughter laying the charge was having on her mother.
"I was only apologising for the effect that impacted on her," Zuma told the court.
The former deputy president said he had been prepared to marry the 31-year-old woman he is alleged to have raped at his Johannesburg home last November, but he denied having had any part in marriage negotiations, saying this was done by the woman's two "aunts".
"Yes, if we had reached an agreement with that, I would have had my cows ready," Zuma told the court.
He continued: "Lobola is an issue between the girl, for instance, and the family. Should she have told these two ladies: eYes, I want Zuma to pay lobola,' I would definitely have done it."
It was not unusual in Zulu custom for a woman who had not had a love relationship with a man to start lobola negotiations for him, he said.
Prosecutor Charin de Beer unflinchingly asked the 63-year-old rape-accused for clarity on almost every moment of what he claims was consensual sex on November 2 last year in his bedroom. Consulting a large, orange lever-arch file, De Beer went through Zuma's every move on the night, ending many of her questions on his descriptions of the woman's alleged behaviour with, "and what did you think of that"?
"Well, my lord . . . a person can't just come to your bed and just trespass on your bed. I believe her intentions were clear," he said at one point.
Zuma, who has told the court that he is HIV-negative, testified that he showered after having sex with the woman to minimise the chances of contracting HIV from her as they had not used a condom.
"It . . . would minimise the risk of contracting the disease," said Zuma, who is the former chairman of the National Aids Council.
Pressed on when he had used his last condom he said, "a couple of days before".
He reiterated earlier testimony that the woman had been sending him sexual signals and repeated the finer details of what he insisted was consensual sex.
She allegedly loosened her wrap and welcomed the full body massage he gave her. They then had sex.
However, in a written statement to police, Zuma did not say the two had consensual sex.
He only denied raping her and said they had "shared in each other's company privately".
De Beer asked if this was because he was still trying to get the woman to withdraw the charge and did not want to reveal his strategy in case there was a court case. "My lord, that is not so," Zuma responded. He did not use the words "consensual sex" in his statement on the advice of his attorney, Michael Hulley, who was "learned" in these matters.
De Beer asked Zuma why he had not told the media in his defence that the two had had consensual sex.
Zuma replied that he did not think it was necessary to discuss the issue with the media.
De Beer said that, according to cellphone records, he had phoned the complainant eight times on November 9, a week after the alleged rape, and she had answered on the ninth call.
He said he wanted to speak to the woman in front of her mother to give his side of the story.
He did not want to persuade her to drop the charge, but to remind her of the truth of what had happened.
He had not phoned her before this because it was "usual" for her to contact him first after their meetings.
De Beer put it to Zuma that the reason he wanted to contact the woman on November 9 was because he had heard that police in KwaZulu Natal wanted to meet him.
He denied this, telling the court the meeting he would have held with the woman would have been after the one with the police.
The non-governmental organisation Soul City, which has won awards for its work in promoting health issues and awareness of HIV/Aids, yesterday took Zuma to task for his apparent belief that a man could not contract HIV/Aids when having sex with an HIV-positive woman.
"Firstly, he continues to assert the untruth that men having intercourse with HIV-positive women are not at risk of becoming infected," the Soul City Institute said in response to testimony by Zuma earlier this week when he played down his risk of contracting HIV/Aids.
"This is the height of irresponsibility in a country where one in nine people is HIV-positive."
Soul City also criticised Zuma for not using a condom during sex.
In his testimony, Zuma told the court the woman had been 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 that condoms were available?"
AIDS prevalence soars among white South Africans says Institute of Race
April 7, 2006,
The HIV infection rate among white South Africans in 2005, was 20 times higher than in Western Europe and 10 times higher than in North America, the South African Institute of Race Relations has said in its latest annual report.
"The most productive segment of the white population is dwindling and is expected to have declined by just under 8% by 2021," Marco MacFarlane, a demographics researcher at the Institute, said in the report released Wednesday.
But the report noted that emigration, more than AIDS, was the key driving force behind the predicted decline in the white population.
"White South Africans have access to anti-retroviral drugs and are less likely to have been influenced by the government`s mixed messages on the best treatment for HIV/AIDS. While AIDS deaths would have some impact it is most likely that the decline represents young professionals emigrating to other countries," MacFarlane added.
He said the figures also showed that there were more whites in the 60-69 age group in 2005 than in the 25-34 age group.
South Africa`s estimated 40 million population is three-quarters black (African) and about 15% white (European), with the remaining 10% made up of people of mixed white, Malayan, and black descent and people of Asian (mostly Indian) extraction.
The country has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world with some five million people said to be HIV-positive.
Former Vice President Jacob Zuma is currently on trial for sexual relations with a HIV-positive woman, who accused him of rape, while Zuma insists they had consensual sex.
Source : Angola Press
South African government bars AIDS group from U.N. meeting
April 07, 2006
The South African government has barred an AIDS activist group from attending an upcoming United Nations meeting on AIDS, The Washington Times reports. South Africa's health ministry has removed the Treatment Action Campaign, which advocates for the distribution of anti-HIV drugs to the nation's HIV-positive residents, from a list of groups invited to the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on AIDS, set for May 31-June 2 in New York City. TAC officials say they were barred from the event because their push for antiretroviral treatment conflicts with the health ministry's position that anti-HIV drugs are toxic. Health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has said that the best treatment for HIV is a diet rich in garlic and lemons. South African president Thabo Mbeki also has publicly questioned the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs. South Africa is home to more than 5 million HIV-positive people, more than any other country in the world. (The Advocate)