Exchange With Reporters Following the Welcoming Ceremony for President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
Q. President Mbeki, do you think your government could be doing more to distribute the medicines for AIDS in South Africa?
President Mbeki. We are discussing that now with the U.N. aides and the WHO. Our Health Minister has just come back from Geneva. We want to look at all of those things so that we can move more effectively against AIDS.
Q. Is it true that you don't consider AZT necessarily a good drug in fighting it?
President Mbeki. I've never said that.
Q. How does that come about?
President Mbeki. Pure invention. Pure invention.
Q. So your position is what, now?
President Mbeki. I've never said that. No, what was said with regard to the anti-retrovirus is that we need to ensure that we are able to cope with dispensing. Because the WHO says when you dispense them, you've got to have a strong enough medical infrastructure because of the potential toxicities and counterindications.
You need to be able to supervise the patients close. But no, no, no—so that's why it's in the aftermath of the announcement that the pharmaceuticals were reducing the prices. When we sent our Health Minister to Geneva to talk with the WHO—so that we see how to respond to that. No, no, it said that there's a lot of stuff that's been written which is not true.
Q. Mr. President, we were asking President Mbeki if he could do more to distribute the drugs that fight AIDS in South Africa. Do you think he could do more?
President Clinton. Well, we've got to get them to him. He's got to be able to afford them. And that's what my Executive order was about. And you've got these five big pharmaceutical companies now who said they're going to help, and I think we're—you know, in the next couple of months, we'll see if we really can get a break for him. But I'm very encouraged by what those pharmaceutical companies said.
And then, of course, if the Congress will pass my tax proposal to give a big tax credit to them to develop these vaccines, I think that will make a big difference.
Q. So you think it's a question of money and not his belief in the drugs?
President Clinton. Yes, I think—there are some drugs out there now; we need to get them out there at affordable prices, and then we need to develop the vaccines. And I think we'll be able to do it.
Permanent Normal Trade Relations With China
Q. How close are you on China?
President Clinton. Well, I'm hopeful. But we're making progress.
NOTE: The exchange began at 10:35 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, President Mbeki referred to Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang of South Africa; and WHO, the World Health Organization. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange. The Executive order of May 10 on access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals and medical technologies is listed in Appendix D of this volume.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Following the Welcoming Ceremony for President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/227932