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* This post was written jointly with Michael Bernstein

According to recent reports from the Washington Post, South Africa's leadership has responded to global pressure to leave their imaginary natural remedies for HIV/AIDS prevention behind and focus on the real stuff -- the stuff that will make the difference between living and dying:

In public comments and private meetings over the past six weeks, [South African] Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has emphasized that the government now believes unequivocally that HIV causes AIDS, a connection that President Thabo Mbeki once publicly questioned. She has also said that antiretroviral drugs must be the centerpiece of the government's response while playing down the dietary recommendations long cited by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as key to fighting AIDS.

With over 5 million South Africans infected by HIV, this policy shift is long overdue, and has undoubtedly put a smile on the face of Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa who has quite vocally criticized South Africa for what he sees as misguided AIDS policies. In an earlier blog post, Michael Bernstein noted that Lewis "gambled" by using his keynote address at this year's international AIDS conference to publicly embarrass South Africa, with the hope of pressuring the government to change its ways. Well, it seems that South Africa is finally listening, to Lewis and its many other critics. And if the policy shift is indeed genuine, it should give us all something to smile about.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.