JOHANNESBURG – Former President Thabo Mbeki remains defiant about his stance on HIV/Aids, which rights groups have labelled as deadly denialism. Now a young Aids activist born with HIV has asked the former President to back off and to stop harming those South Africans who are fighting the virus.
Tshepo Ngoato was 11 years old when his mother died of an Aids-related illness.
She was never given ARVs, and died in the same year that then President Thabo Mbeki questioned whether HIV caused Aids.
Tshepo would find out after his mother’s death that he’d been born with HIV. He’s now an outspoken HIV activist and is open about his status.
“I don’t care. If my friends decide to back off, then they must back off. Friends, you know, I can make a friend today or the following day and that friend will actually accept my status,” said Ngoato.
Mbeki sparked controversy this week when he defended comments he made over a decade ago.
After being ordered to supply ARVs to pregnant women, government recorded significant progress with hundreds of thousands of babies born without the virus despite their mothers testing positive.
However, an estimated 35,000 babies were not spared that fate and have grown into young adults who are living with the virus.
“Ah Mbeki…he’s trying to bring up old wounds. And he’s trying to take us people who are fighting against HIV far back. At the end of the day, he’s trying to hurt a lot of people. Remember that we still have people who are in denial about their statuses, and that means he is setting our mission, and helping people, far back,” Ngoato said.
Ngoato says he’s passionate about reaching young people.
Many of them, babies born too early – whose lives have been irretrievably changed by Mbeki’s dogged defiance about HIV/Aids.