The Tragic Cost of Being Unscientific

PRINCETON – Throughout his tenure as South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki rejected the scientific consensus that AIDS is caused by a virus, HIV, and that antiretroviral drugs can save the lives of people who test positive for it. Instead, he embraced the views of a small group of dissident scientists who suggested other causes for AIDS.

Mbeki stubbornly continued to embrace this position even as the evidence against it became overwhelming. When anyone – even Nelson Mandela, the heroic resistance fighter against apartheid who became South Africa’s first black president – publicly questioned Mbeki’s views, Mbeki’s supporters viciously denounced them.