Schalk van Zuydam/AP
South African President Thabo Mbeki talks to media at the end of the AU Summit on the
outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania, Friday, May 23, 2008. (AP)

South African Court Bars AIDS Vitamin Trials

June 16, 2008 11:09 AM
by Josh Katz
The Cape Town High Court has prohibited unauthorized vitamin-therapy AIDS trials in South Africa, citing the high death toll from patients replacing medication with vitamins.

30-Second Summary

The case arose when the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the South African Medical Association (SAMA) charged an American and a German doctor with “conducting illegal trials among poor communities,” according to The BBC.

One of the doctors, Matthias Rath, has pushed for the use of vitamin pills and minerals to combat AIDS. But TAC and SAMA argued that people were dying because they stopped taking antiretroviral medication, replacing it with the alternative treatments.

The organizations also accused the South African government of misleading the public. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has called for the use of garlic and beetroot instead of standard AIDS treatment drugs.

South Africa suffers from one of the highest HIV-infection rates in the world. About one in five adults there has the virus and an estimated 500,000 people are infected each year.

The judgment comes after the monumental failure in 2007 of two promising AIDS vaccines. The news worsened in March 2008, when the results from the trials—including one in South Africa—indicated that the vaccines “not only did not protect people from the virus, but may actually have put them at increased risk of becoming infected,” The Washington Post wrote.

However, on June 9, advisers to the FDA said that such early testing of experimental vaccines in teenagers may be ethically warranted in nations where AIDS is spreading rapidly, including some African countries.

Headline Link: South Africa ‘bans Aids vitamin trials’

Background: Testing vaccines in Africa; failure of vaccine trials

Opinion & Analysis: The future of AIDS research

Mbeki’s AIDS policy
Dim outlook for a vaccine despite two decades of effort
 Concerns about human trials of AIDS vaccine
Preventing epidemics before they start

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