By James Hall
Independent Foreign Service
Mbabane - A senior royal leader in Swaziland has dismissed the severity of the Aids epidemic in the country with the world's highest HIV prevalence rate, and ridiculed programmes that promote circumcision and condom usage as ways to combat Aids.
"Circumcision only helps to keep one hygienically safe. If that is the case, why not use water and bath?" said Prince Mangaliso, head of King Mswati's advisory council, Liqoqo, the Times of Swaziland reported yesterday.
The prince blamed what he called profit-hungry drug and condom makers for misleading the public about the extent of Aids.
"This (pharmaceutical) industry is making a lot of money and if there was no HIV, there would be a lot of people who would lose business.
"They are making so much exaggeration about HIV and Aids so they can keep their business afloat," Mangaliso said.
He said he would not take an HIV test because he was not scared of HIV.
The remarks were made in response to claims by an 18-year-old woman that the prince was failing to support their four-year-old child.
The woman claims she recently removed her daughter from the prince's home fearing the child was being abused.
The 60-year-old prince denied her claims that he had promised to marry her, and refused to say how many other children he had fathered out of wedlock.
The personal questioning led to his wider comments about HIV and Aids.
Forty-two percent of Swaziland's sexually active adults are HIV-positive, according to public health officials, who expressed dismay at the prince's remarks.
Vusi Dlamini, spokesman for the Family Life Association of Swaziland, said: "Circumcision and HIV testing are part of a package of services we offer; you can't separate them. We need to engage traditional leaders on this subject."