Harvard Scientists Join South Africa HIV/AIDS Controversy

May 13, 2005

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have condemned misleading US promotional material distributed by controversial vitamins supplier the Dr Rath foundation. The advertisements, also provided in South Africa, allegedly include "deliberately misleading" claims relating to a Harvard study of the benefits of vitamin supplements for HIV/AIDS sufferers in Tanzania.

Significantly, the company claims that conventional antiretrovirals (ARVs) damage immune responses, which the study's authors note is contrary to their study's findings. Although the report showed that vitamins slowed the advance of the disease's symptoms, it stresses that the products were not a substitute for conventional drug treatment.

The US scientists' statement is likely to prove awkward for South African health authorities, and the country's health minister has recently denied ever endorsing Dr Rath products. Nevertheless, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has pledged to continue to warn the public over the purported toxicity of ARVs, despite having presided over the recent ZAR3.4bn (US$537mn) government tender for their supply.