The black population bore much of the HIV/AIDS burden. The white population had access to South Africa’s apartheid-era first world private medical facilities, and they procured anti-retrovirals from abroad. On the other hand, most blacks depended on the state medical facilities that also dated from the apartheid era. Mbeki and his then minister of health appeared bewitched by pseudo-scientific theories about HIV/AIDS circulating on the internet. Mbeki, also, saw foreign and white criticism of his approach to HIV/AIDS as part of an effort to discredit a new, black government. A consequence was that the government health system on which most blacks depended largely ignored HIV/AIDS and did not provide the most modern medical treatment.
Even before Mbeki left office, domestic and international pressure was compelling the South African government to engage the HIV/AIDS epidemic with a more scientific approach. This move was greatly strengthened during the administration of Jacob Zuma. The government created and developed new medical capacity, and it procured and distributed anti-retrovirals. Deaths from HIV/AIDS plummeted.