Victory for the rule of law and the scientific governance of medicines. South Africa has been devastated by the Twin Epidemics of Aids and Ignorance.
South Africa- Yesterday, June 13, the South African High Court handed down a landmark judgment in a court action against AIDS denialist Matthias Rath and the Government of South Africa. Global health advocates have hailed this decision as a landmark against the twin epidemics of AIDs and Ignorance that has swept South Africa. It is hoped this decision will be the end of the pseudoscience known as "AIDs Denialism"- that is, the idea that somehow HIV is not the cause of AIDs. This theory has been promoted by the South African President Thabo Mbeki, as an excuse to avoid providing anti-retroviral treatments to his citizens.
The court declared the state has a duty to enforce the scientific governance of medicines as defined in the Medicines and Related Substances Act 101 of 1965.
The world press has long denounced the South African Minister of Health who has promoted pseudoscience, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of innocent South African children.
The world press (including the BBC) has hailed this judgment is effectively a stern warning to all purveyors of untested and unregistered medicines, and against AIDs Denilists who promote the anti-scientific position that HIV does not cause AIDS.
The court ruled against German physician Matthias Rath and US doctor David Rasnick, a former adviser to President Thabo Mbeki. accused Dr Rath of conducting illegal trials among poor communities.
"It is declared that the clinical trials conducted in South Africa are unlawful," Judge Dumisani Zondi said in his ruling. Matthias Rath and his Rath Foundation promote vitamin pills as a substitute for anti-retroviral therapy. The court agreed trials of substitute vitamins had led to unnecessary deaths when HIV-positive people stopped using anti-retroviral drugs.
The BBC reported “Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has controversially advocated garlic and beetroot instead of anti-retroviral drugs, denied the allegations.”
Many observers noted that the high court was ratifying the principles set down in the Durban Declarataion, in which the world's scientists made clear there is no doubt that HIV causes AIDS, and all efforts to prevent, educate and treat AIDs must be directed against the AIDS virus:
The Durban Declaration
The Durban Declaration - signed by over 5,000 eminent scientists, including eleven Nobel prizewinners,- was a statement made at the 2000 AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa in response to statements by South Africa president Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki suggested that HIV might not cause AIDS, and at the Durban conference over 5,000 scientists signed a statement which included the following:
“The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous, meeting the highest standards of science. The data fulfil exactly the same criteria as for other viral diseases, such as polio, measles and smallpox:
o Patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, regardless of where they live, are infected with HIV.
o If not treated, most people with HIV infection show signs of AIDS within 5-10 years. HIV infection is identified in blood by detecting antibodies, gene sequences or viral isolation. These tests are as reliable as any used for detecting other virus infections.
o People who receive HIV-contaminated blood or blood products develop AIDS, whereas those who receive untainted or screened blood do not.
o Most children who develop AIDS are born to HIV-infected mothers. The higher the viral load in the mother, the greater the risk of the child becoming infected.
o In the laboratory, HIV infects the exact type of white blood cell (CD4 lymphocytes) that becomes depleted in people with AIDS.
o Drugs that block HIV replication in the test tube also reduce virus load in people and delay progression to AIDS. Where available, treatment has reduced AIDS mortality by more than 80%.
o Monkeys inoculated with cloned SIV DNA become infected and develop AIDS.”
Further compelling data are available. HIV causes AIDS. Bizarrely, a few vocal people continue to deny the evidence. This position costs millions of lives. Doctors organizations have uniformly condemened the denialist position.
"HIV is the cause of AIDs, period." states health activist Dr. James Murtagh. "Koch's postulates have been amply fulfilled, and more than a dozen double blind studies have been performed. To promote the idea that HIV is not the cause of AIDS flies in the face of all evidence. It is like saying the world is flat, or that the earth does not go around the sun. Anyone denying the truth that HIV causes AIDs is blocking the adequate treatment, prevention and education of AIDs. Any organization aligning themselves with the Duesberg-Rath-Mbeki denialism is complicit in the Mbeki government's policies, which has caused millions of innocent children to die."
South Africa has one of the world's highest incidences of HIV. One in five adults are reported to be infected and an estimated 500,000 people are infected each year. The high court's decision reaffirming the need for science and the rule of law may finally start the long trek back for South Africans.
This article is the opinion solely of this author, and of the persons quoted.