Washington Post Examines Why Many HIV-Positive South Africans Prefer Traditional Therapies Over Antiretroviral Drugs
Although antiretroviral drug regimens "have transformed AIDS into a manageable disease for many people in the United States and other wealthy countries," many HIV-positive patients in South Africa are "reluctant to take them -- or accept the treatment only when death is so near that the medication can no longer reverse the slide," the Washington Post reports. Medical authorities in South Africa and other developing countries "have been startled to discover" that many HIV-positive patients have "more faith in traditional cures" than Western medicine and fear the possible side effects of antiretroviral medications, the Post reports. Francois Venter, a physician who treats HIV patients at Johannesburg General Hospital, said he estimates that one out of every three patients who need the drugs refuse them. Venter and other AIDS advocates blame patients' "unease" about antiretrovirals on South African President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who have "frequently" called antiretroviral drugs "toxic" and "long resisted making them widely available through the government health system," according to the Post. Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang have "repeatedly emphasized good nutrition and clean water as key to treating" HIV/AIDS, the Post reports. Brian Brink, a physician who oversees the antiretroviral drug therapy program for South African employees of the mining company Anglo American, said that the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, the uncertainty of treatment success and fear of side effects are the primary reasons that only about 2,050 of the nearly 8,500 HIV-positive Anglo American employees who need antiretrovirals are accepting the drugs, which the company provides to employees at no cost (Timberg, Washington Post, 10/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.