Blow for ‘Manto muthi’

2008-04-12 00:00

The ASA ruling:

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have upheld a complaint that Ubhejane, a local herbal preparation, is not an Aids cure.

Aids activists believe the ruling could set a precedent in the stand-off between supporters of alternative therapies championed by Health Minister Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and medical practitioners prescribing anti-retrovirals.

The ruling relates to an advertisement in a December 2007 edition of Ilanga newspaper that claims the potion speeds up recovery from diarrhoea, lack of appetite, swollen glands and thrush, and increases CD4 counts while reducing the viral load in the blood "until it disappears".

Nathan Geffen of the Treatment Action Campaign argued that unsubstantiated and false claims and references to Aids in the advertisement are prohibited and that Ubhejane should be registered with the Medicines Control Council.

The TAC says:

Spokeswoman Nokhwezi Hoboyi said the Treatment Action Campaign’s victory "challenges the impunity" of charlatans who have exploited the government’s failure to enforce the Medicines Control Act.

She said the fact that prominent politicians are in denial over Aids and their support for claims that various herbs and micronutrients reverse the course of Aids have created confusion among extremely vulnerable people.

Hoboyi said that in many instances charlatans have advised their patients to stop taking anti-retrovirals, advice that leads to sometimes fatal resistance to first-line treatment regimes.

Hoboyi said the TAC will apply to the Medicines Controls Council law enforcement unit asking that the factory producing Ubhejane be shut down pending its approval by the MCC and scientific proof that it actually works.

Zeblon Gwala says:

Ubhejane is apparently produced from 89 different herbs and plants and was created by Pinetown-based traditional healer Zeblon Gwala.

"I would not give my own people poison," said Gwala.

Unlike ARVs, he said, Ubhejane does not have dangerous side-effects.

He said research into his remedy has been carried out by the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Medunsa.

Gwala challenged the government to amend legislation and put protocols in place so that traditional remedies can be registered like Western medicines.

He said that banning traditional remedies being sold to people with Aids will never remove them from the market, and that many patients consult traditional healers first.

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