South African Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang Defends Group Claiming Vitamins Can Prevent AIDS-Related Death
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Tuesday defended the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Dr. Rath Health Foundation, which recently ran advertisements stating that vitamins and nutrition therapy alone could prevent AIDS-related deaths, South Africa's Business Day/AllAfrica.com reports. Tshabalala-Msimang -- speaking in Durban, where she is attending the World Health Organization meeting on nutrition and HIV/AIDS -- said the group supports the South African government's stance on the "importance of micronutrients in combating HIV/AIDS," according to Business Day/AllAfrica.com (Kahn, Business Day/AllAfrica.com, 4/13). WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS in a recent statement condemned the foundation's advertisements -- which also called antiretroviral drugs "toxic" -- saying the ads are "dangerous and unhelpful" (Joint statement, 3/30). The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa last month found that the advertisements, which were published in newspapers and on fliers, made false claims and ordered their withdrawal from circulation. Tshabalala-Msimang agreed that HIV-positive South Africans have been subject to "a confusing chorus of medical claims" from businesses selling nutritional supplements and vitamins, according to Business Day/AllAfrica.com. "If you eat properly, you can delay the onset of AIDS -- in some cases indefinitely," Tshabalala-Msimang said, adding, "As you know, once you start (taking antiretroviral medicines), you are on them for life. If you can delay starting, it's all the better in my view" (BusinessDay/AllAfrica.com, 4/13).
TAC Files Suit Over Ad
The South African HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign has asked the Cape High Court to issue a temporary injunction to prevent the Rath Foundation and its head, Matthias Rath, from making defamatory statements about the organization, South Africa's Cape Argus reports. In its ads, the Rath Foundation suggests that TAC and other groups are "front organizations" for the pharmaceutical industry and that the group has misled people to believe that "exorbitantly expensive and highly toxic drugs like AZT and nevirapine" can successfully treat HIV infection, the Cape Argus reports. TAC has encouraged the South African government to provide access to antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people in the country. Rath and his foundation have filed a response to TAC's request, saying that the foundation's claims about antiretrovirals are true and their criticism of TAC is allowed under the constitutional right to free expression, according to the Cape Argus. The court is expected to hear the request on Thursday, TAC spokesperson Nathan Geffen said, the Cape Argus reports (Maughan, Cape Argus, 4/15).