He warned that any claims of therapeutic effectiveness that are being made without appropriate clinical trials and the subsequent submission to and approval by the Medicines Control Council, were against the law and he implored the health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to ‘refrain from breaking the laws of the country’.
‘Antiretroviral (ARV) medication is the only treatment that is scientifically proven to prolong the lives of people with AIDS. There is overwhelming and conclusive evidence from local and international clinical trials to support the fact that ARVs improve and indefinitely prolong the lives of patients with AIDS,’ Letlape said in a statement.
SAMA is the representative body for seventy percent of doctors working in South Africa’s public and private sector.
Letlape said that while the medical profession fully acknowledged the known fact that optimal nutrition was important and beneficial to everybody, the Tshabalala-Msimang’s emphasis of the exaggerated value of nutrition as a preferential means to manage and treat AIDS was confusing a vulnerable public.
He pointed out that treating people with ARVs were consistent with government policies and has been repeatedly shared amongst academics, researchers and clinicians at local and international scientific conferences with a view to informing both the public and the medical profession on the progress made in fighting the pandemic.
‘There should be no doubt as to the efficacy of this form of AIDS management,’ he added.
‘There is no current scientifically proven alternative to ARVs in the treatment of AIDS patients with weakened immune systems. The public should no longer be subjected to ambiguous advice and confusing statements. In the interest of better health care for our people, SAMA is appealing to the Minister to refrain from confusing the public about the value of nutrition as opposed to scientific and evidence-based medicine,’ Letlape said.
The statement added: ‘The effective management of people living with HIV and AIDS is dependent on providing accurate and appropriate information. The Department of Health has a sound policy on the treatment of HIV. It should be implemented without further delay, allowing all role-players to focus on the prevention of HIV.’
‘We have to work collectively to implement the government strategy and redouble our efforts on repositioning AIDS prevention, and to humbly accept that we are far from achieving our intended goals,’ Letlape said.
Sibane Mngadi, spokersperson for the health minister, accused SAMA misrepresenting Government policy on HIV and AIDS.
He said the minister speaks about the Comprehensive Plan for
Management, Care and Treatment of HIV and AIDS which included prevention, health lifestyle choices, the treatment of opportunistic infections, the research and development of African traditional medicines and finally making ARVs available to those with a CD4 count of 200 and below.