Former President Jimmy Carter said he nearly punched out South Africa’s president over his refusal to allow treatment of AIDS patients in his country.


“The first time I came here to Cape Town I almost got in a fight with the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, because he was refusing to let AIDS be treated,” Carter told the Sunday Times.

He said then-health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was standing with Mbeki at the time.

“That’s the closest I’ve come to getting into a fist fight with a head of state,” Carter said.

Mbeki famously denied the link between HIV and AIDS.

In 1999, he that AZT, the most suitable anti-retroviral drug used at the time, was toxic and refused to make treatment available in spite of a United Nations offer of assistance.

Carter said he and Bill Gates Sr., the philanthropist and father of the Microsoft founder, were trying to convince Mbeki to provide anti-retroviral treatment to pregnant woman with AIDS, but he said the South African leader “was against that.”