A South African AIDS activist was beaten to death last week after she told a group of men who had raped her that she was HIV-positive, said the leader of an AIDS activist group on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse. Zackie Achmat, head of the Treatment Action Campaign, said 21-year-old Lorna Mlosana was sitting with a friend near a tavern in Khayelitsha, a township outside Cape Town, when she decided to go to a nearby rest room. Five men then burst into the toilet and took turns raping her. They also beat her friend when she tried to intervene. When Mlosana told the men they should not have raped her because she was HIV-positive, they beat her to death, AFP reports. "The people of Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, and Mitchell's Plain [townships on the outskirts of Cape Town] have adopted a very open approach to HIV in the past six years, and it is a criminal element that did this, not the community," Achmat told the Johannesburg-based Saturday Star newspaper.
South Africa has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world, with the United Nations estimating at least 5.3 million people infected. Violence against women is rife in the country, where according to the South African Institute of Race Relations, 119 women out of every 100,000 were raped in 2002. Discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS also remains deeply entrenched. In one of the most widely reported cases, Durban AIDS activist Gugu Dlamini was beaten to death in 1998 by a mob that included her own neighbors after she made her HIV status public. South African AIDS researchers have called for the government to encourage the destigmatization of the disease so that more people will volunteer to be tested. Achmat and TAC were recently nominated for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for creating awareness about HIV and AIDS and for pressuring the South African government into providing treatment for people infected with the disease.