2003: HIV and Nutrition
In March 2003, Tshabalala-Msimang invited Roberto Giraldo, an influential dissident scientist and member of Mbeki's Presidential Advisory Panel, to advise the government on nutrition.
Giraldo had in January that year briefed South African Development Community health ministers, angering Aids activists. Giraldo told the meeting:
"The transmission of Aids from person to person is a myth … The homosexual transmission of the epidemic in Western countries, as well as the heterosexual transmission in Africa , is an assumption made without any scientific validation."
Tshabalala-Msimang said that Giraldo was invited based on his expertise in nutrition, and said "our own strategic plan is based on the premise that HIV causes Aids. I am only looking for expertise in nutrition."
In April 2005, Tshabalala-Msimang defended controversial vitamin proponent Matthias Rath. She said nutrition was the foundation of fighting disease, including HIV/AIDS, and that the Rath Foundation, which advertised "natural" treatments for AIDS, was "not undermining government's position". "If you eat properly you can delay the onset of AIDS — in some cases indefinitely," she said, according to a Business Day report.
The Dr Rath Health Foundation Africa and the Treatment Information Group advertise "natural health" treatment, including the use of multi-vitamins, to fight AIDS. Their adverts also claim that antiretroviral drugs are highly toxic and dangerous (see advert). The adverts have been condemned by the South African Medical Association (source), the Southern African HIV Clinicians' Society (source), the World Health Organisation and the United Nations (source). The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa ordered the withdrawal of some of the newspaper advertisements and fliers published by the group because they contained unsubstantiated claims.
However, Tshabalala-Msimang has never publicly condemned Rath's activities, prompting the TAC to file court papers against the minister, Rath and some of his associates, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) and the Western Cape MEC for Health in late November 2005 (see TAC newsletter).