Durban Declaration

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The Durban Declaration is a statement signed by over 5,000 physicians and scientists in the year 2000, affirming that HIV is the cause of AIDS. The declaration was drafted in response to HIV/AIDS denialism, and particularly to address South African president Thabo Mbeki's support for AIDS denialists.[1] It was written several weeks prior to the 2000 International AIDS Conference, held in Durban, South Africa from July 9–14, 2000, and was published in the medical journal Nature to coincide with the Durban conference. The declaration called the evidence that HIV causes AIDS "clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous".[2]

Each person who signed the document was required to have a Ph.D. or M.D.-equivalent degree. To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, scientists "working for commercial companies were asked not to sign." The signatories included eleven Nobel prize winners.[2]

Reaction[edit]

Michael Specter, writing in the New Yorker, called the Durban Declaration "one of the saddest documents in modern scientific history," reflecting concern that Mbeki's embrace of AIDS denialism was a disastrous response to South Africa's AIDS epidemic.[3] Mbeki's government reportedly pressured South African scientists not to sign the document,[4] and initially dismissed the Durban declaration. Health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang called it "elitist",[3] while Mbeki's spokesperson said it belonged in a "dustbin".[4]

Several AIDS denialists criticized the Declaration in a letter to the editor of Nature, casting the issue as an abridgement of their rights to free speech and an intolerance of "alternative" viewpoints.[5] In response, Nature later published a letter detailing inaccurate claims made by AIDS denialists in their attacks on the Declaration,[6] and a second satirical letter from two AIDS researchers, stating: "We are staunch believers in the right to free speech, but is Nature the appropriate place to militate in favour of the pre-Copernican model of the universe or the existence of phlogiston?"[7]

In 2008, independent estimates by public health experts attributed over 300,000 preventable South African AIDS deaths and nearly 200,000 new HIV infections to government policies based on the AIDS denialist assertions criticised by the Durban Declaration.[8][9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aiken, Jonathan (2000-07-01). "International scientists, doctors reaffirm HIV causes AIDS". CNN. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  2. ^ a b , (2000). "The Durban Declaration". Nature 406 (6791): 15–6. doi:10.1038/35017662. PMID 10894520. 
  3. ^ a b Specter, Michael (2007-03-12). "The Denialists". New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-10-14. 
  4. ^ a b Sidley P (July 2000). "Mbeki dismisses "Durban declaration"". BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 321 (7253): 67. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7253.67/a. PMC 1127750. PMID 10884240. 
  5. ^ Stewart GT (September 2000). "The Durban Declaration is not accepted by all". Nature 407 (6802): 286. doi:10.1038/35030200. PMID 11014164. 
  6. ^ Delaney M (November 2000). "Why are AIDS dissidents still making 15-year-old, long-refuted claims?". Nature 408 (6810): 287. doi:10.1038/35042743. PMID 11099014. 
  7. ^ Wain-Hobson S, Weiss RA (October 2000). "If free speech costs lives that's a high price to pay". Nature 407 (6806): 834. doi:10.1038/35038262. PMID 11057643. 
  8. ^ Chigwedere P, Seage GR, Gruskin S, Lee TH, Essex M (October 2008). "Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa". Journal of acquired immune deficiency syndromes (1999) 49 (4): 410. doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e31818a6cd5. PMID 18931626. Lay summary. 
  9. ^ Nattrass N (February 2008). "Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa". African Affairs 107 (427): 157–76. doi:10.1093/afraf/adm087. 

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