SOUTH AFRICA: South African Activists Take On AIDS 'Dissident' CDC Daily UpdateImportant note: Information in this article was accurate in 2005. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date.
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SOUTH AFRICA: South African Activists Take On AIDS 'Dissident'

Reuters (04.18.05) - Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Gordon Bell

On Monday, the South African AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said it would file suit against Matthias Rath, an AIDS dissident whom TAC accuses of persuading people to quit taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). TAC also demanded that South Africa's government dissociate itself from Rath, who runs a vitamin supplement firm and whose Rath Foundation distributed tens of thousands of pamphlets in poor black South African townships claiming ARVs are poison and cause deformities in babies. The pamphlets urge people to choose Rath vitamins. In newspaper advertisements, the Rath Foundation brands TAC as a front group for the pharmaceutical industry.

"It is very simple and clear that this is a sustained smear campaign," said TAC Chairperson Zackie Achmat. The Cape High Court will hear an urgent application on April 26 to stop Rath from making accusations against TAC. TAC fears sick people may stop taking ARVs in a bid to prolong their lives in reaction to Rath's claims.

In response, the Rath Foundation said Monday that its vitamins had proved effective and did not have the side effects of ARVs. It also said TAC was funded by the pharmaceutical sector, which TAC denies.

TAC said it would also file suit against South Africa's Medicines Control Council if it did not stop Rath's activities, which TAC said the government seemed to tacitly condone. Last week, South African newspapers reported that Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang defended Rath, saying that he supported the government view on the role of nutrition in fighting AIDS. The department could not be reached for comment.

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