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Zuma testifies he showered to prevent HIV infectio

Zuma testifies he showered to prevent HIV infection

Former top AIDS official, leader tried in rape of HIV-positive woman

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- Former Deputy President Jacob Zuma told a South African court Wednesday that he took a shower to reduce the risk of infection after unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman.

Zuma, who is accused of raping the 31-year-old family friend at his home, repeatedly said that the sex was consensual and initiated by the woman, and that he did not use a condom because he believed the risks of him contracting the disease were minimal.

Under cross-examination, Zuma said that he took a shower after sexual intercourse with the AIDS activist because "it was one of the things that would minimize contact with the disease."

The comments from the former head of South Africa's National AIDS Council provoked dismay among anti-AIDS fighters that his comments would undermine prevention campaigns in one of the world's hardest hit countries.

"He is sending a very wrong impression to the youth that if you engage in unprotected sex the transmission risks are minimal," said Nokhwezi Hoboyi, a spokeswoman for the Treatment Action Campaign.

"A lot of people are looking up to Zuma and he is setting a very bad example in AIDS prevention," she said.

As head of the AIDS council, Zuma was meant to spearhead government campaigns against the HIV virus which has infected between 5.3 million and 6 million people in South Africa, the highest number anywhere in the world.

Up to 1,000 people are dying each day of AIDS related diseases and 2.5 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and other causes.

A survey last year Human Sciences Research Council revealed that 66 percent of respondents did not think they were at risk of infection -- including just over half of those who tested positive for HIV. Many men are reluctant to use a condom even though they have multiple partners.

"It's absolutely dreadful, appalling," said Annabel Kanabus, director of the British-based AIDS charity AVERT, which has prevention programs in South Africa. "Grassroots prevention efforts will be terribly, terribly harmed by this. It will indirectly result in a lot of people dying because they will follow his example," she told The AP in a telephone interview.

"It's the same sort of myth that you get with teenage pregnancy, that if you wash you might not get pregnant," Kanabus said. She said it showed a lack of understanding about "very basic transmission information about HIV."

Mercy Tshadibe, who was trying to sell cleaning products to about 100 Zuma supporters outside the Johannesburg High Court, said she was shocked given Zuma's promotion of the use of condoms while he was in government and his supposed knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

"If she was infected, he could have taken a hundred baths and it wouldn't wash it away," she commented.

Zuma, who is still deputy president of the ruling African National Congress and enjoys strong support among young people, maintains the rape charges are part of a plot to destroy his lingering hopes of succeeding President Thabo Mbeki in 2009.

Fired for alleged corruption
He was sacked as deputy president last year for alleged involvement in a corruption scandal and stands trial on those charges in July.

Zuma has argued that his accuser encouraged him. He says she sent him dozens of cell phone text messages in the weeks before the incident, wore a skirt rather than her usual trousers on the evening in question, wore a flimsy wrap without underwear in bed and didn't object to being massaged and kissed.

"As I was growing up as a young boy, I was told if you get to that stage with a woman and you don't do anything it is said she will become infuriated with you, that she may even lay false charges of rape against you," he told the court in his native Zulu through an interpreter.

Victim says she's lesbian
The woman told the court last month that she would never agree to unprotected sex -- and had not done so for the past decade -- citing the fact that they did not use a condom as proof that Zuma raped her. She also said that she regarded herself as a lesbian, prosecutors said, partly because of the trauma of being repeatedly raped as a child.

The woman testified that he offered the massage and had sexual intercourse with her in the guest room. She said that she was so shocked by Zuma's advances that she froze and did not try to resist -- behavior one psychologist said was consistent with rape victims in shock.

Zuma supporters -- including women -- said the complainant had been paid by his opponents to lie.

"I don't think Zuma raped her. They bought her with money," said Rabia Moses, a 58 year-old mother of three.

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