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AIDS and the Scientific Governance of Medicine in South Africa

Year: 2006
Working paper number: 176
Author: Nattrass, Nicoli
Unit: ASRU

South Africa's approach to AIDS has been shaped by persistent antipathy on the part of President Mbeki and his Health Minister towards antiretroviral therapy. This was framed initially by Mbeki's questioning of AIDS science and subsequently by direct resistance to implementing prevention and treatment programmes using antiretrovirals. Once that battle was lost in the courts and in the political arena, the Health Minister continued a war of attrition by portraying antiretrovirals as 'poison', supporting alternative untested therapies and undermining the scientific regulation of medicines. Two key scientific bodies, the Medicines Control Council (MCC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) fall under the ambit of the national Department of Health. Although notionally independent, both have experienced political interference as a consequence of their scientific approach to AIDS. The MCC appears no longer able to respond to complaints if these are lodged against alternative therapists supported by the Health Minister, and its law enforcement personnel have been over-ruled by the Director General of Health.  

Publication file: wp176.pdf