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S Africa bans AIDS vitamins trials

23rd June 2008

A high court in South Africa has banned a German doctor and his colleagues from carrying out clinical trials into his 'cure' for HIV/AIDS based on vitamins.

hiv

The Cape High Court banned Matthias Rath’s South African operations from conducting any further unauthorised clinical trials in the country, and to stop publishing advertisements claiming that his multi-vitamin, Vita-Cell was about to undergo trials for its efficacy in persons with HIV/AIDS.

Judge Dumisani Zondi ordered health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her director-general Thami Mseleku to take reasonable measures to prevent Rath and his co-respondents from conducting unauthorised clinical trials and preventing them from publishing advertisements concerning the medicinal effects of Vita-Cell on people living with HIV.

Campaigners against Rath's vitamin treatments hailed the judgement as a victory for the rule of law and scientific governance. Nathan Geffen of the Treatment Action Campaign said the health minister and president had created a culture of impunity which allowed people like Matthias Rath to deceive vulnerable people.

Geffen said people had died taking the vitamins in the belief that they could cure HIV/AIDS. He said the judgment would also affect the operations of other vendors of untested remedies for the virus, including Comforters Healing Gift purveyor Christine Qunta, Tine van de Maas who sells garlic and olive oil, and truck driver Zeblon Gwala who sells the unregistered remedy Ubhejane.

Geffen and other campaigners, who lodged a complaint in April with South Africa's Medicines Control Council and the health ministry against Gwala, called for the sacking of Tshabalala-Msimang.

He said the the police, health department, human rights commission and directorate of public prosecutions had all failed to act against distributors of untested AIDS remedies. He said
Gwala sells Ubhejane in unlabelled plastic bottles to people living with HIV, and accuses him of being in breach of the Medicines Act. He has said publicly that he believes that antiretroviral medication, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation, is toxic.

One KwaZulu-Natal doctor recently reported that a 36-year-old patient who had been on antiretroviral treatment for 15 months discontinued treatment after consulting a traditional healer who stopped the ARV treatment and gave the patient Ubhejane. The patients died within two weeks of complications.

Doctors have described an unending battle against cases of this kind. Health official declined to comment on the complaint against Gwala.

 

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