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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Manto again angers Aids activists

South African Press Association - June 8, 2005

South Africa's health minister angered Aids activists on Tuesday when she told a national Aids conference that they should focus on other diseases and reiterated her view that drugs are not the only answer to fighting HIV.

"I hope you have come in such big numbers not just to focus on one ailment but to focus on all of them, because many other people are dying of other diseases in this country," Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told a news conference on the opening day of the conference.

"Even though it is a conference on HIV and Aids, you must not forget to talk about cancers, you must not forget to talk about diabetes, you must not forget to talk about other communicable diseases," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang also reiterated her view that anti-retroviral drugs are not the only answer to fighting HIV, and that nutrition is a key component in the approach to treatment of the virus, which is the leading cause of death in South Africa, according to the Medical Research Council.

"There is no single clear intervention that can solely solve the challenges of people living with HIV and Aids," she said. "I know I get attacked if I say it's nutrition or micro-nutrients or anti-retrovirals and people want me to say 'and, and, and'. I think we need to give South African options."

Her comments angered activists from South Africa's top Aids lobby group, the Treatment Action Campaign, which accused the minister of trying to undermine the conference, the second to be held in South Africa since 2003.

"From the beginning, she questioned why we should even have an Aids conference," said TAC spokesperson Mark Haywood, adding that the "hard statistics emanating from her ministry" show that Aids is the biggest health crisis facing the nation.

According to the United Nations Aids agency, 5,3-million people are living with HIV or full-blown Aids in South Africa, or an estimated one in five adults.

Haywood said the health minister has missed an opportunity to rally "the country's best doctors, top experts and activists" to a call for united action to fight the disease.

The health minister has been criticised by Aids activists and health professionals for creating what the Nobel Prize-winning organisation M d cins sans Fronti res has called a "fake polemic" surrounding nutrition and Aids in South Africa.

Tshabalala-Msimang, who studied medicine in the Soviet Union and in Tanzania, has been advocating her own diet of raw garlic, lemon peel, olive oil and beetroot to fight HIV and openly questioned the use of anti-retrovirals, citing the negative side-effects.

The minister again alluded to her own prescription, saying South Africa is supporting a programme to help HIV-positive South Africans grow their own vegetable gardens so that they can have "beetroot, garlic, lemon ... and buy a bottle of olive oil. All these things are very critical."

She also said South Africa is blazing a trail in the area of research into traditional medicines and that the government will seek to promote these once testing is completed by medical authorities.

At least 42 000 South Africans are receiving anti-retrovirals under the government's roll-out programme, but the TAC is urging the government to speed this up to make them available to 200 000 people by 2006.

About 4 000 scientists, medical professionals, Aids activists and social workers are attending the four-day conference in Durban.

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