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Saab defends investment in dubious 'HIV cure'

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Saab defends investment in dubious 'HIV cure'
Saab sold jets to South Africa and invested in the country's research. Photo: AP
12:35 CEST+02:00
Swedish defence company Saab has come under fire for its large donations to an HIV "cure" which is alleged to have cost lives.
Ten years ago Saab and its former British aerospace partner BAE Systems donated 70 million kronor ($9.7 millon) to a company called Hivex, which aimed to cure South Africa's HIV sufferers by using radio waves.
 
Thousands of patients were told that all they had to do was regularly visit radio-wave rooms which would automatically treat them for the virus.
 
The Saab investment was part of a procurement deal with the South African government, a trade-off for the purchase of Jas Gripen jets.
 
Two years ago, however, Hivex stopped its research operations in the country as experts claimed that the radio waves were having no effect on HIV patients' health.
 
Swedish broadcaster SVT claimed on Thursday that the treatments "may have cost people's lives" as some stopped taking their usual medication in the belief that the radio waves alone would cure them. 
 
Sebastian Carlsson, press officer at Saab, told The Local that SVT had found nothing new in its research. 
 
"In a press conference in April 2003, a scientist said very clearly that this method was not a cure for HIV," he explained. 
 
He added that in accordance with South African law at the time, Saab and BAE had to invest in high-risk endeavours, as South Africa was only freshly out of Apartheid and struggling to educate and employ the population. 
 
"In context, this was a country needing risk capital for research and development into HIV. It was an industrial cooperation and many other countries were involved in similar deals," he told The Local. 
 
Carlsson dismissed claims that Saab may have cost the lives of South Africans.
 
He added that Saab's Grintek Defence offshoot named the export company of the year in South Africa for the last two years running, and that there are also a string of "really successful" companies in South Africa that were funded by the Swedish company's investments.
 
SVT's report will air at 8pm on Thursday.
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