Natural Healers Support South African Health Minister’s Approach to AIDs treatment
From Reuters News Agency
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 22 (Reuters) – South Africa’s embattled health minister received a rare public boost on Wednesday when hundreds of traditional African healers marched in Johannesburg to support her natural treatments for HIV/AIDS.
Several hundred healers, many wrapped in red cloaks and headscarves, praised Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and urged the government to give greater weight to traditional remedies as it battles one of the world’s worst AIDS pandemics.
“None of the knowledge that is stolen from traditional healers globally is ever acknowledged and pharmaceutical cartels make a fortune off the backs of traditional health practitioners by making synthetic drugs with massive side effects,” the group said in a statement.
Traffic came to a standstill in parts of central Johannesburg to make way for the protest, which saw healers singing, dancing and ululating and carrying placards warning of the dangers of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs — the only treatment known to slow the progress of AIDS.
“People should be warned about the side effects of ARVs” one sign read, while another said “Manto Thumbs Up 4 Good Work”.
Tshabalala-Msimang has drawn particular heat for advocating natural remedies including garlic, olive oil and beet root and questioning the central role of ARVs in AIDS programmes.
South Africa’s AIDS strategy was a focus of this year’s global AIDS conference in Toronto, where U.N. officials slammed the government for policies one senior official described as “worthy of the lunatic fringe”.
But the feisty health minister — known to be close to President Thabo Mbeki — recently retaliated, saying in a letter to members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) she was not giving up the battle.
“Nutrition is critical in prolonging progression from HIV infection to development of AIDS defining conditions … others chose to interpret this simple and straight-forward statement as suggesting that nutrition might be an alternative to treatment. It is not,” she wrote.