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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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.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's Aids stance 'fatal'

09/05/2005 11:01  - (SA)

Antoinette Pienaar, Beeld

Pretoria - The health minister's repeated statements about the "deadly side-effects" of antiretroviral medicines (ARVs) might have led to serious illness and even fatalities among Aids patients who have stopped taking treatment.

Sister Sue Roberts of the ARV clinic at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg said on Sunday a man who was on antiretroviral treatment and who was doing very well, died a month ago after stopping treatment.

"His family members convinced him that ARVs were bad for him," she said.

Last week, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang criticised ARVs at a media conference for the umpteenth time and promoted her lemon, garlic and olive oil diet.

She was not happy about the more than 42 000 people who received ARVs under the government's Aids programme, because she did not know "how many of them are dying because of the side-effects of ARVs".

When asked whether she had any scientific proof that her garlic diet was a replacement for ARVs, the minister referred reporters to an article in the ANC Today of two weeks ago.

In this article, no mention was made of research, but references were made to the importance of diet as set out in the World Health Organisation's guidelines.

Diet crucial

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said at the weekend her "unqualified" statements - that a good diet was just as effective in the fight against Aids as ARVs - set the country back ten years.

Although a proper diet was crucial for the success of ARVs, most doctors agreed that diet alone could not replace ARVs.

About 2 500 people received ARVs at the Helen Joseph clinic and Roberts said it was clear that the allegations about ARV toxicity were reaching the community.

"More than 80% of the people taking ARVs had untraceable HI-virus levels in their blood after four months. Less than 1% showed serious side effects.

Many medical experts have pointed out that the number of people who died of these side-effects were insignificant compared to those who died because they did not use ARVs.

"These people do well on ARVs until someone convinces them to stop the treatment because of the alleged toxicity. We see them again about two months later when they are seriously ill and must be admitted to hospital," Roberts said.

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