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Mixed messages from HIV-negative Zuma

Andrew Harding | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

So... Jacob Zuma is HIV-negative. His very public declaration has prompted a range of responses here in South Africa.zumaafp.jpg

  • Many people seem genuinely pleased that Mr Zuma, whose private life usually makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons, is leading by example and helping to fight the stigma of Aids. It is striking how much that stigma endures here given that the disease reportedly kills 1,000 people a day.
  • But would he have gone public if his test result had been positive? Isn't this just a stunt to try to repair some of the damage done by his irresponsible sexual behaviour. In terms of breaking stigmas, his announcement certainly doesn't compare with Nelson Mandela's admission, back in 2005, that his eldest son had died of Aids.

  • Mr Zuma has a reputation as a womanizer, and famously told a judge at his rape trial in 2006 that he showered after having sex with an HIV-positive woman instead of using a condom. He's had four tests that he says were all negative for HIV. What message does that really send to young men here? That Zuma is very lucky, or that the risks of unprotected sex aren't that big.

  • At least he's open about things, unlike his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki. The National Union of Metal Workers put it rather neatly: "This public disclosure by President Zuma buries the denialism, aloofness, poetic and bookish approach to the HIV/Aids pandemic associated with the presidency during the 10-year tenure of President Thabo Mbeki." Let's just hope he keeps pushing the message about the importance of testing, and backs up that message with sufficient funding.

I suspect that the first and last conclusions could be the dominant ones here in South Africa.

Mr Zuma may be flawed, and his private and public lives clearly send out mixed messages, but on certain issues he has a little of the Bill Clinton about him in his ability to admit faults and ask the public to keep the faith.


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  • 1. At 12:42pm on 26 Apr 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    President Jacob Zuma has launched a program to combat AIDS in South Africa; he did this by taking a test and then publically announcing the results: He is HIV negative i.e. uninfected with HIV - no antibodies to HIV in his bloodstream
    He made this announcement to promote openness and help lift the stigma. I suppose, to suit President Zuma’s purposes, it may have been better if he had tested positive because it would have taken plenty of courage to admit that.
    The president's sex life has been a controversial and very public subject. On the subject, President Zuma said that he wants to make all South Africans understand that people living with HIV have not committed any crime. The campaign he is now backing hopes to get 15 million people tested during the next year, and provide drugs to 80% of those infected.
    Zuma is a member of the Zulu culture, which practices polygamy.
    He has three wives and 19 children.
    Polygamy is legal in South Africa.
    Criticism says that it polygamy is out of step with modern times and unfair to women. Personally, I feel that President Zuma’s sex life is not my business, as long as he acknowledges his children and his wives and treats them all respectfully, if not lovingly.
    President Zuma once admitted that he knowingly had consensual sex with the HIV positive woman and thought he could ensure his safety by showering afterward; this demonstrates ignorance. This is why it’s important that President Zuma share his sexual ventures - nothing breeds HIV positivity like ignorance.
    Bill Clinton isn’t Zulu but according to a BBC Magazine article Thursday, 28 September 2006, Bill’s into “ubuntu”.
    Ubuntu us a word describing an African worldview, which translates as:
    "I am because you are."
    People need people to be fulfilled.
    It’s related to a Zulu concept - "umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others. It's in how you treat yourself and OTHERS that you truly define who you are.

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  • 2. At 1:20pm on 26 Apr 2010, Back 2 Blighty wrote:

    "So... Jacob Zuma is HIV-negative"

    Does that mean you can now have an in-depth interview with him,Mr Harding?

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  • 3. At 2:57pm on 26 Apr 2010, Faten wrote:

    I find it brave of President Zuma. My only concern is the message this sends especially when people know about his sexual habits. When I heard about his announcement the first question that came to mind was what does it mean? That you can have multiple sexual partners and use no protection and not get HIV/AIDS?
    Regardless, I think it sends a good message about testing. The challenge now is for him to also promote protection...

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  • 4. At 1:29pm on 27 Apr 2010, JOB EGALAHA wrote:

    The real HIV status of Jacob lies between him and his doctor. Who knows...

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  • 5. At 2:37pm on 27 Apr 2010, Mze-djimba wrote:

    HIV & AIDS is one of the most burning issue on the lives of the Africans particularly South Africans, in my view this disease it has been used as weapons of massdistractions against the African nations.

    Leave alone the bizarre point of knowing that the disease was discover in America and yet the majority of the victims are in Africa as we been told, but more bizarre to understand that America is a country which majority of the citizens are non Africans and yet the majority of the most affected by the virus are Africans there again. Keep in mind that the so-call gay community in America majority are whites and all possibilities are there that whites use less of the so-call protection than any other nation. Less than 1% in porn use condoms.

    Adding over this, if you look at the strategies & tools were used to wiped-out the red Indians in America and the Aboriginals in Australia you should be interested to know where the AIDS business came from and going to? Who created it and why? To know that the biggest killer of Africans in America is Aids and the second is guns, and when you look in Africa it’s the same; the first killer is AIDS and the second is guns I wonder how many people will try to argue that this is some evolution thing which is developing itself by accident.

    When you look at the real genocide done and keep going on in all over Africa done by the west and engineer by the so-call NGOs like WHO, world bank, IMF etc and these crimes are being validate by the eunuch UN, I am sure you can be able to come to some conclusion on the part of the war the AIDS is helping. There are many western health companies are getting quote with very doggy business all over Africa every day so find out. And guess if it’s the responsibility of blackwater to help to end the violence in Iraq or to agitate it and extend the contracts to grow up their pockets.

    Some of the rich African countries reached the level that they could not afford to pay for the expensive ARVs and they had to change diamonds for the drugs, interesting enough if you know that in the last few weeks some European countries threaten to go to court with the many money makers who exaggerate on the impact of the swine flu Mexican virus or “H1N1” some people did used the chance of the chaos last year to sale more drugs to all over the world and the proves can be seen everyway.

    So do the HIV&AIDS which right now is nearly one trillion dollar business have some specialise blood suckers to push the agendas and keep benefiting everyway especially if this blood money is coming from subhuman in Africa and Asia? I remember one article in one of South African newspapers years ago which a white person wrote and said: let’s just go out and wait few years AIDS will take care for the Africans and then we will come back.

    When you are analysing the possibilities on why HIV was invented and introduced to the Africans please keep in mind that, even though we are in a time all over Europe campaigns is going on for people to increase the birth rate and Africa is getting the opposite of the campaigns(logically Africans should be the only ones have right to campaign to increase the birth as they have more natural resources but sadly due to technicalities they have zero, the minerals they sleep on it is curs for them but bless for the west) and if you say there is some kind of Culling business going on in Africa, some people might say you are exaggerating then the psychologically warfare & stigmatisation the entire continent can be use as part of the benefits of using this kind of weapon call HIV&AIDS.

    I would like to end this comment by correcting something western media intentionally put blind eye on it so they could carryon their own views, and that is the lies we were told in the last eight years during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency which claimed that Mr Mbeki deny the reality of HIV&AIDS, so here is one of his first public speeches on the issue and let you be the judge if he refused the impact of the laser weapon which Dr Robert Garlow can be in the list of the technicians who developed the killer.

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  • 6. At 6:41pm on 27 Apr 2010, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mr. Harding:

    I am glad, with the mix messages that are being revealed from South African President Zuma and his HIV-Negative status...But, at least, he is now admitting that he took the HIV (AIDS) Test.


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  • 7. At 1:24pm on 29 Apr 2010, maritza wrote:

    So the president is HIV negative. Great. But what is he doing about the crime in this land of ours? South Africa is such a beautifull land, but the crime here is unbearable. People outside SA don't know what's going on this land. Each morning when i open the paper, i read about yet another brutal killing on a farm. I read about a one year old girl and her caretaker that got beaten so badley that the little girl stopped breathing and is still fighting for her life. I see the ANC youth league president singing struggle songs (a struggle that has been over for many years, a struggle he wasn't even part of) - signing "shoot the boer". I see people dying left and right, i see corruption up to the highest levels, i see crime spinning out of control - but please Mr. President, take more time and make your status known, that's far more important than this country dying more and more each day...

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  • 8. At 5:36pm on 03 May 2010, Nayna Desai wrote:


    Great article - summarises the issues perfectly. If anything, this test result probably illustrates the power of negative thinking - the number of South Africa citizens that may have been affected had Mr Zuma's status been positive would have been disproportionately high - and not just because he's the president of South Africa but rather for more physical reasons (viz. your third bullet point about his promiscuity!)

    As an aside, I spotted a cartoon on this topic on a South African blog I follow that I think you might enjoy: Zuma HIV cartoon

    @ #7 Maritza - you're right crime is certainly an issue in South Africa but HIV/AIDS is a severely underestimated problem in the country largely due to denialism and to subsequent ignorant policy decisions made over the last decade.

    I believe Mr Zuma has taken the right step forward in raising awareness for HIV testing and certainly he follows up with subsequent measures. It is however disappointing that other politicians have not followed suit - now that would have been real leadership by example!

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  • 9. At 05:42am on 04 May 2010, shileima wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 10. At 12:19pm on 04 May 2010, maritza wrote:

    @ Nr 8 - Nayna

    I agree that HIV is a big issue in our land, but i'm sure if all rapists are taken off the streets the problem will also take a turn for the better. You have serial rapists going around doing what they want to who ever they want, you have people raping babies, even dogs. So if we could get crime under control, things like hiv and even poverty will start getting better. If you have people caring for each other things will go better. Crime is the biggest problem in South Africa and the second biggest problem is the fact that goverment makes empty promises. Service delivery is such a big problem, but goverment sits back and does nothing. The sit in their big secure homes, drive their fancy cars and get protected by all their security people, while the rest of us have to suffer in silence. I know i sound angry today, but i am angry. If crime and corruption gets taken out of SA, things will be so much better for ALL of us.

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