Thursday June 30, 2005
Â· And so to Africa, where there are “complementary and alternative medicine” practitioners pursuing the fashionable attack on mainstream medicine, just like in the UK. Take Matthias Rath and the Rath Foundation vitamin empire: they’ve been running advertising campaigns in newspapers and poster campaigns near HIV/Aids treatment centres, telling people that anti-retroviral drugs undermine the body’s immune system, and that “micro-nutrients alone can promote the defence against Aids”.
Â· Just like many Cam practitioners in the UK, the Rath Foundation makes paranoid accusations against anyone who disagrees with it, accusing them of being in the pocket of the multinational pharmaceutical companies with advert headlines such as “Stop Aids genocide by the drug cartel”. The irony of simultaneously selling pills for $30 for a month’s supply (big money in South Africa) and being an international multi-million dollar business itself is strangely lost. And just like our UK Cam practitioners, it likes to adopt a mainstream scientific stance and push multivitamins for “treating” illnesses. Harvard researchers have accused Rath of misinterpreting their findings to argue against increased use of antiretroviral therapy, numerous countries’ advertising standards people have ordered Rath to withdraw unsubstantiated claims, and UNAids, WHO and Unicef have condemned his misrepresentations of their nutrition and health advice.
Â· And just like our UK Cam practitioners, they have friends in high places. The Medicines Control Council and the Health Professionals Council of South Africa have failed to act on complaints, just as our authorities have failed to act on bogus nutritionists and their ilk. Why? To parallel our Blair-Windsor axis of irrationality, Rath has President Mbeki, longtime naysayer of the link between HIV and Aids, and his health minister Dr Tshabalala-Msimang. “Raw garlic and a skin of the lemon – not only do they give you a beautiful face and skin but they also protect you from disease,” she said. She also said she would refuse to be “pressured” into increasing the anti-retroviral rollout to meet the target of 3 million patients by this year, claimed that people have ignored the importance of nutrition and stated that she will continue to warn patients of the side effects of anti-retrovirals, saying: “We have been vindicated in this regard. We are what we eat.” South Africa has 5 million people infected with HIV, one person in nine. Fewer than 40,000 are taking proper medication. The stakes are higher, but the game is the same.