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South Africa Invites AIDS Organizations to UN Special Session


In a turnaround, the South African government has invited a representative of the Treatment Action Campaign to be part of the official country delegation to the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in May.

Health Ministry spokesman Sibani Mngadi told VOA he hopes that the invitation to the secretary general of the Treatment Action Campaign to join the official South African delegation to the United Nations will resolve a dispute with the organization.

The original exclusion of Treatment Action Campaign from the delegation caused an international outcry. The Campaign is considered South Africa's foremost private HIV/AIDS organization. In has over the past five years frequently clashed with the government, both inside and outside the courts, on the government's response to the pandemic.

The United Nations resolution for the special session called on member states to include civil society representatives in their delegations. The session will take place in New York over three days from May 31 and will review the progress that the world has made in implementing the Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS adopted by the General Assembly in 2001.

Mngadi told VOA that in addition to the Treatment Action Campaign, the government has invited 13 other civil society delegates representing a wide range of sectors in society, including women, youth, business, academia, those dealing with children, and people living with AIDS.

The leader of the delegation will be a member of the cabinet, but it is not yet decided whether it will be controversial Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The minister has often demonstrated ambivalence on the cause of AIDS, observers say because she is reluctant to incur the displeasure of President Thabo Mbeki, who has never unequivocally acknowledged that HIV causes AIDS.

Tshabalala-Msimang is also known for her support of unorthodox treatments for AIDS, including eating large quantities of garlic, olive oil and beetroot.

The Treatment Action Campaign has not yet responded to the invitation.

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