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South African Satire

Issue 1,  March 2004

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Health Minister Spearheads Revolutionary AIDS Research

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang today launched a revolutionary new research program aimed at preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.   The new program brings together the minister’s non-conventional use of herbal intervention in HIV, as well as state-of-the-art genetic research.  It will put South Africa in the forefront of human genetic experimentation and the fight against AIDS.  The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and various religious groups have condemned the program as both risky and immoral.

 The new research program will attempt to transplant the fetuses of HIV-infected mothers into specially engineered cabbages.  The program, known as the Cabbage Patch Kid Program, will make use of certain species of African cabbage that are said to have potent anti-retroviral powers.  The fetuses will be removed from the womb and implanted into the cabbages, where they will grow and be born.  While in the cabbages their human DNA will combine with the part of the cabbage DNA that gives it its anti-retroviral powers.  The Minister claims that the children will in turn inherit this and “become as immune to HIV as the cabbage for the rest of their lives”.

cabbagebirth.jpg (28100 bytes)  If successful the Minister hopes to extend the program and make it compulsory for all children to be born as Cabbage Patch Kids.  “This research has the potential to turn the country around.  We will, in effect, have created a vaccine for AIDS and can be sure that future generations of South Africans will never again be ravaged by the disease”, said the Minister at the program launch this weekend.  “Moreover, the financial implications of switching to the Cabbage Patch model of childbirth are staggering.  We estimate we will save billions in healthcare by harvesting children instead of facilitating messy childbirths and paying for anti-retrovirals (ARV’s).  It is much cheaper employing gardeners than gynecologists.  We can also make tons of money selling this to the developed nations, who for so long have been getting rich off the suffering of the poor in Africa.”

 Zachie Achmat of the TAC has come out strongly against the new program.  He called it “another hair-brained scheme” and criticized it for being possibly even more risky than traditional childbirth procedures.  Achmed warned that the dangers inherent in being born out of a cabbage consisted mainly of threats to the cabbage itself while the fetus was inside.   He mentioned caterpillars, locusts, cold weather, and diseases like the Great Potato Blight in Ireland that could “potentially destroy even more young South Africans than HIV.”  He also went further to caution the Minister that “ HIV positive mothers reserve the right not to put their babies in cabbages.”  The TAC, he said, would not hesitate to take government to court to protect this right.

 The Catholic Church called on the Minister to bring an immediate halt to the program.  A church spokesperson said that the government was trying to play God by altering the development of children in such a fundamental way.  “The Catholic Church will not stand by idly while innocent children are defiled in this way.”  Religious leaders from all the other major faiths were unanimous in their objection to human genetic experiments and Cabbage Patch Kids.  Only the Hare Krisha movement expressed some interest in the technology, but, according to their spokesperson, they needed assurances that none of these cabbages would end up being sold to the public “since we do use a lot of cabbage in our breyani.”

 The Minister accused her critics of being rigid in their views and not looking at the massive benefits for the country.  She gave her assurances that her research team was of the highest calibre and included her personal sangoma and dietician, as well as top-notch North Korean scientists that had achieved “some very exciting results growing dogs in pumpkins for their local food industry.”

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