- A South African study has found no evidence that better nutrition can substitute anti-retroviral treatment (ARV). This comes at a time when South Africans have been debating whether nutrition can be an alternative to ARVs.
South African Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, firmly believed that eating garlic, beetroot and olive oil could be a substitute to ARV. Her statement was widely condemned, but it also created confusion among millions of South Africans living with HIV/AIDS. She was later named "Ms Beetroot."
The report was the result of a two-year review of 2,000 studies on the role of nutrition in HIV and pandemics by a 15 member panel of scientists at the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).
During the period, the panel perused through so many nutritional guidelines, including those from the World Health Organisation, the South African Department of Health and the South African HIV/AIDS Clinicians Society.
The scientists found no evidence that better nutrition alone can curb or treat HIV or TB.
"Neither poverty nor malnutrition is the cause of HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis," a panel member, Professor Este Vorster, Director of the Africa Unit for Trans-disciplinary Health Research at Northwest University, said.
"If you have been tested for HIV and you know your status, you need to know that dietary supplements cannot compensate for healthy eating,“ Professor Vorster said, adding “eating healthily cannot compensate for anti-retroviral drugs.”
The report also discovered that HIV-positive people, family members, caregivers and the community have been confused about the validity of medicines and nutrition and the roles they play.
A distrust medical doctors and their prescription treatments has also been discovered. This is mainly due to the dual regulatory practices arising from the contrast between western scientific tradition and traditional medicine and the politics related to culture in South Africa.
"In traditional medicine, we have a different approach: it is seen as wisdom passed on. It's simply, in a sense, experience in practice," Wieland Gevers, ASSAf’s Executive Officer, said.
"Traditional medical practitioners say that part of the remedy is the patient's belief in the remedy itself, and it's very hard to test that in a controlled study."
"Also, there are the special conditions of the historical transitions," Gevers said. "Nobody wants to be very heavy handed with the traditions of the majority - about 80 percent of South Africans would go to a traditional healer first; it's very hard to regulate a tradition that the majority of the population thinks is okay.”
The report recommends the need for better regulation of traditional or alternative medicines as well as education the population about their uses.
The report has been published when South African government is being criticised for firing the Deputy Health Minister, Nozize Madlala-Routledge. Ms Madlala-Routledge has criticised the way her country’s policy on HIV/AIDS treatment.
But Gevers said the study has no political connotation.
Ms Tshabalala-Msimang’s office is yet to react to the report, although an advanced copy has been sent to her.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.