Racist HIV conspiracy was real, claims new documentary

Danish director is adamant Aids was spread in phony vaccines

Director Mads Brugger attends the "Cold Case Hammarskjold" Premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square Theatre on January 26.
Director Mads Brugger attends the "Cold Case Hammarskjold" Premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival at Prospector Square Theatre on January 26.
Image: Cassidy Sparrow/Getty Images

A plot by white mercenaries to spread HIV through black South Africa via a phony vaccination programme – it sounds like the stuff of pulp spy novels, but documentary-maker Mads Brugger is adamant that this is one sensational conspiracy that actually happened.

The Danish director set out to investigate the 1961 plane crash that killed the head of the United Nations in modern-day Zambia for his latest film – but says he ended up uncovering something vastly more sinister.

In Cold Case: Hammarskjold, Brugger meets Alexander Jones, a former member of a clandestine paramilitary organisation with alleged ties to South Africa’s apartheid government.

Jones tells the filmmaker the group undertook nefarious HIV research in the 1980s and 1990s as part of a white supremacist plot to devastate black communities with the virus.

“We were at war,” Jones tells Brugger in the film. “Black people in South Africa were the enemy.”

There is no evidence of the plot to spread HIV being successfully put into action.

But Brugger and his team tracked down medical clinics run by the group’s now-dead leader, Keith Maxwell, in South Africa.

Maxwell claimed to be seeking a cure for HIV but had no medical training, and spoke openly of his fascination with biological weapons, according to the filmmakers.

They met with a witness who says he saw Maxwell personally injecting black patients with supposed vaccines.

“What easier way to get a guinea pig than [if] you live in an apartheid system?” Jones says in the film.

“Black people have got no rights, they need medical treatment. There’s a white ‘philanthropist’ coming in and saying, ‘You know, I’ll open up these clinics and I’ll treat you.’ And meantime [he was] actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

SA has extremely high HIV infection rates and a history of dangerous untruths about its spread

In the film, he initially set out to investigate theories that UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold’s plane was deliberately brought down in a crash that killed 16 people.

Documents found in SA government archives containing details of plans to detonate a bomb on Hammarskjold’s aircraft bear the name of Maxwell’s group – the shadowy SA Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR).

This prompted Brugger and his team to track down Jones, who claimed SAIMR had brought down the plane.

But there are major issues with Brugger’s account.

Many doubt SAIMR even existed on any substantial scale outside the warped mind of its “leader” Maxwell, a noted fantasist.

And then there is the issue of whether it would have even been possible to deliberately spread HIV.

Medical experts say the technology was beyond the scope of all but a handful of government laboratories at the time.

Conspiracy theories about Western plots to weaponise Aids in Africa were encouraged by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and can cause serious harm by turning people off medical treatment.

South Africa has extremely high HIV infection rates and a history of dangerous misinformation about its spread. – AFP

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