This is an archive of the Treatment Action Campaign's public documents from
December 1998 until October 2008. I created this website because the TAC's
website appears unmaintained and people were concerned that it
was becoming increasingly hard to find important documents.
The menu items have been slightly edited and a new stylesheet applied to the site. But none of the documents have been edited, not even for minor errors. The text appears on this site as obtained from the Internet Archive.
The period covered by the archive encompassed the campaign for HIV medicines, the civil disobedience campaigns, the Competition Commission complaints, the 2008 xenophobic violence and the PMTCT, Khayelitsha health workers and Matthias Rath court cases.
TAC Briefing: The harmful activities of Matthias Rath
(Also see below: Rath's false allegations against TAC)
Defend science, Defend government's antiretroviral programme
18 April 2005
The last few months have seen an unprecedented and deliberate smear campaign against the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and its members, as well as the Medicines Control Council. However, the real aim of these attacks is to reinvent HIV denialism and to undermine the treatment of people who need antiretrovirals (ARVs).
Although, this is a frustrating side-show to our work of treatment literacy, reducing medicine prices and improving health facilities, it is important. About 500 000 people need treatment with ARVs. Fewer than 100 000 people have access. This deliberate confusion is a direct attack on the public health message – get tested, get treated and always use condoms for sex. The Rath Foundation is preying on vulnerable people with life-threatening illnesses with two aims: to sell their products and to support the HIV denialists who have caused enormous damage to our country.
TAC has evidence that Matthias Rath runs unregistered medical practices in Cape Town townships and conducts unauthorised, unethical and dangerous experiments on people with HIV. Yet government has failed to stop him.
A defamation campaign to market vitamins
Matthias Rath, a wealthy vitamin salesman, began an advertising campaign in South African newspapers over a year ago. His advertisements claim Rath is a scientist who discovered natural health solutions to health problems. They also defamed the Medicines Control Council (MCC), accusing it of being a front for the pharmaceutical industry because it aimed to regulate the safety and efficacy of complementary and traditional medicines. As the year progressed, Rath's advertisements became more outrageous. He eventually began claiming that antiretrovirals for treating AIDS were toxic and that multivitamins are a treatment for AIDS.
Consequently, TAC and a private individual, George Stacey, lodged a complaint against Rath with the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) against Rath's false claims. Rath proceeded to run defamatory attacks on TAC, accusing us of being a drug company front and paying people to demonstrate. ASASA ruled that Rath's claims were unsubstantiated and must be withdrawn. Rath then ran adverts in Sowetan and other newspapers defaming ASASA, accusing it also of being a drug company front. Most of these adverts continued defaming TAC. Rath and the newspapers that run these adverts are in breach of ASASA's ruling. Furthermore, Rath continues to spread these defamatory attacks via pamphlets and posters in the Western Cape, as well as on the Internet.
Rath's defamation campaign and vindictive pamphlets and posters which contain numerous false claims are causing confusion in communities and support groups of people living with HIV/AIDS. TAC members are expressing concern that people who need to commence antiretroviral treatment are reluctant to start and people on antiretroviral treatment might not adhere.
The WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS have condemned Rath's misrepresentations of their advice on nutrition. In a new pamphlet distributed on 16 April in Khayelithsa and on his website, Rath accuses "drug interests within the WHO and other UN bodies" of "directly attacking" his foundation's "groundbreaking work".
Rath's strategy is to defame anyone who points out his marketing strategy and lies. Usually he accuses them of being a drug company front. Ironically, his multivitamin prices, as sold on the Internet, are extortionate. His basic vitamin tablets cost $29.95 (+/-R180) per month. The more expensive combinations of tablets can cost up to R3 500 per month. By comparison, local pharmacies sell an expensive brand-name multivitamin product at R62 per month.
TAC would not ever wish to limit the right to free expression and fair comment in our society. We have relied on freedom of expression rights to carry out our work. We encourage full discussion on the risks and benefits of antiretrovirals. However, the right to free expression and fair comment does not include the right to defame other persons, and particularly not in an inflammatory and inciting manner.
Illegal Medical Practices
The purpose of these defamatory attacks is to market Rath's vitamin brands. He has established facilities in Khayelitsha, Nyanga and Mandela Park (Hout Bay) where people purporting to be doctors distribute his multivitamins in his name. TAC confirmed that Rath is not registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and therefore it is illegal for Rath to run this practice.
In treating patients, Rath's agents claim that antiretrovirals should not be taken and that multivitamins are a treatment for HIV/AIDS. This is clear from his advertisements, and from the affidavit given to the HPCSA. This is a breach of the Medicines Act.
Illegal Experiments on People
TAC has handed the Health Professions Council of South Africa and the police an affidavit with evidence that Rath is conducting experiments on people. An advert placed in The Mercury on 15 April and a pamphlet distributed at a meeting addressed by the Minister of Health in Khayelitsha on 16 April provides further evidence that experimentation has taken place. Either Rath does not have permission to conduct these experiments from the MCC or the MCC has acted illegally by giving him permission. It is our strong suspicion that the former is the case. Implicated in this scandal are AIDS denialists Sam Mhlongo and David Rasnick. The Mercury confirmed in a telephone conversation with TAC that they had confirmed with Rasnick and Mhlongo that they were involved in this experiment. TAC has obtained samples of Rath's multivitamins. They are marketed so that a reasonable patient would bel