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Was Zuma right to reveal HIV status?

By Reuters Staff
April 26, 2010

SAFRICA/ South African President Jacob Zuma has disclosed that he is HIV negative after his most recent test for the virus that causes AIDS.
 Zuma said he wanted “to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic” in a country which has more people infected with the virus than any other – an estimated five million.

 Some South Africans had been calling on Zuma for a while to release the results of HIV tests and not just to take them. But critics now say Zuma could be sending the wrong message by saying he is HIV negative because of a lifestyle that has involved numerous affairs as well as marriages (he currently has three wives and a fiancée).

 In 2006, he acknowledged during a trial for rape, of which he was acquitted, that he did not use a condom during sex with a woman he knew to be HIV positive but said he took a shower afterwards in the hope of reducing the infection risk.

“So showering after sex DOES work!” said a blogger on the ‘Mail and Guardian website.

But some also applauded the president for setting a good example to younger South Africans by getting tested and being willing to reveal the results – although not putting pressure on others to do so. Was Zuma right to reveal his HIV status? And should other African leaders follow suit?

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