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[pronut-hiv] South Africa: Minister's Remedies Shock World AIDS Indaba

  • From: "ProNut-HIV" <>
  • Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 10:55:01 -0400

South Africa: Minister's Remedies Shock World AIDS Indaba

Business Day (Johannesburg)
August 14, 2006
Tamar Kahn

Just hours before the official opening of the 16th International AIDS
Conference last night, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang whipped
up controversy over the best way to treat HIV patients, extolling the
benefits of garlic, beetroot, lemons and the African potato.

This is in spite of the University of Stellenbosch's Nutrition
Information Centre warning three years ago that the African potato
caused bone marrow suppression in HIV patients, and cautioned against
its use.

"We have a constitution which says people have choices to make. If
people choose to use traditional medicine ... why not give them those
choices?" said the minister as she opened the Khomanani exhibition stand
at the conference. Khomanani is government's primary HIV/AIDS awareness
campaign. Its future is uncertain after the health department failed to
issue a new tender for its management.

While the minister's provocative views on the relative benefits of
nutrition and antiretroviral medicines for people infected with HIV are
no secret, delegates were shocked to hear her express them so forcefully
ahead of such a high-profile gathering.

The week-long international AIDS conference is the largest of its kind,
and is expected to draw more than 25000 experts.

"There's absolutely no empirical, scientific evidence" that garlic and
lemon juice boost the immune system, said Dr Harry Moultrie, a South
African HIV paediatrician based at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

"I think it's despicable for you to bow to the minister's wishes and
display (these things)," he said angrily to Khomanani campaign manager
Peddie Nhlapo.

In addition to posters and literature about government's comprehensive
plan for the prevention, care and treatment of people affected by
HIV/AIDS, SA's exhibition stand displayed beaded bowls of garlic,
lemons, beetroot and African potatoes among the shelves of crafts made
by people living with HIV.

Details about government's free AIDS drug programme, the largest in the
world, were by contrast limited to leaflets. Government has committed
R3,4bn to pharmaceutical firms under contract to supply the medicines
used in its treatment programme, which now reaches more than 140000

Ministerial spokesman Sibane Mngadi said the vegetables, displayed among
packets of samp and nutritional supplements, were intended to highlight
the "multi-pronged interventions government can make".

Shortly after fielding questions from journalists, Khomanani staff
hurriedly added two vials of AIDS drugs to the stand's shelves. Nhlapo
contradicted Mngadi, saying the exhibition had been intended to include
antiretroviral medicines, but this had not been possible because the
samples were in his suitcase, which had been lost in transit from SA.

SA's HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the world's worst, with 5,4-million
people infected.