South African Public Works Minister Distributing Homemade AIDS Remedy
Stella Sigcau, South Africa's public works minister, is reportedly manufacturing and distributing a homemade "traditional" cure for HIV/AIDS, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Sigcau, a "key ally" of President Thabo Mbeki in the Eastern Cape, said that the remedy is made primarily from peach leaves, but added that she does not "want the whole world to know the ingredients" and is applying for a patent. The news was met with "dismay" from AIDS activists who are already at odds with the government over its failure to provide antiretroviral medications to those infected with HIV. Despite settling a lawsuit with the world's major pharmaceutical manufacturers that would allow it to produce or import generic drugs, the South African government still has not begun any plans to make antiretrovirals more widely available, citing concerns over the drugs' toxicity. Sharon Ekambaram of the AIDS Consortium said that Sigcau's traditional remedy was only "increasing the confusion around HIV treatment," adding, "It's not helping the department of health." Sigcau countered that she "believe[s] traditional medicine may have a role to play in combatting viral disease and should be assessed." AIDS activists have criticized Mbeki for "repeatedly" publicly questioning the causal link between HIV and AIDS. He and several members of his cabinet have implied that poverty may be the alternative cause of AIDS. Last year, Sigcau "refused" to say whether she agreed with Mbeki, telling a parliamentary briefing that her job was to relieve poverty and that government efforts should focus on the poverty that helped spread the disease. It is "unclear" whether Sigcau is selling the medicine or distributing it free of charge, but nonetheless, she is required by law to submit it to the government for official approval (O'Loughlin, Sydney Morning Herald, 7/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.