El trágico coste de ser acientífico

PRINCETON – Durante su mandato como presidente de Sudáfrica, Thabo Mbeki rechazó el consenso científico de que el SIDA es causado por un virus, el VIH, y que los medicamentos antirretrovirales pueden salvar las vidas de los seropositivos. En lugar de ello, abrazó los puntos de vista de un pequeño grupo de científicos disidentes que sugerían otras causas para el SIDA.

Mbeki siguió manteniendo tercamente esta opinión a pesar de que la evidencia contra ella se fue haciendo abrumadora. Cada vez que alguien -incluso Nelson Mandela, el heroico luchador de la resistencia contra el apartheid que se convirtiera en el primer presidente negro de Sudáfrica- cuestionó públicamente los puntos de vista de Mbeki, sus partidarios lo denunciaban con saña.

Mientras Botswana y Namibia, vecinos de Sudáfrica, proporcionaban antirretrovirales a la mayoría de sus ciudadanos infectados por VIH, no ocurría así en la Sudáfrica gobernada por Mbeki. Un equipo de investigadores de la Universidad de Harvard ha estudiado las consecuencias de esta política. Utilizando supuestos conservadores, estima que si el gobierno de Sudáfrica hubiera proporcionado los medicamentos adecuados, tanto a pacientes con SIDA como a mujeres embarazadas con riesgo de infectar sus bebés, se habrían evitado 365.000 muertes prematuras.

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