A new voice for AIDS in South Africa
Manto’s deputy minister has seized the moment offered by her superior’s lengthy hospital stay and staged a successful coup. She’s taking the opportunity of her new-found independence to speak out against the health minister and her puppeteer, the president.
In an interview for a British newspaper, deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said what we’ve all been thinking for a long, long time.
That Manto and Mbeki need to take responsibility for the current confusion over HIV/AIDS treatment:
What has happened in South Africa, which is sad and tragic… people are confused about treatment… and this has come about because of the confusing messages coming from the very top.
That it is irresponsible to tell people that untested traditional medicines are a valid alternative:
If I use the example of traditional medicine, I think it was irresponsible of leaders to say people have a choice… because how do those people choose when they don’t have the knowledge that is backed up by science?
That it was a mistake to assign as the chairperson of a task team on traditional medicine, a man who is currently marketing an untested traditional remedy for AIDS:
But if there is a (misunderstanding)… that the task team is saying people can use traditional medicine, that is a problem, because what brings about that concern for me is that Vilakazi is chairperson of the task team on traditional medicine and… Vilakazi… is marketing an untested product, Ubhejane, so that’s a concern because once people see ‘Oh, Professor Vilakazi has now been appointed by the president to be chairperson of this task team and Professor Vilakazi is saying take Ubhejane to cure Aids’ – you know what I mean, it’s very confusing to ordinary people.
And confirmed that she had indeed been gagged from speaking her mind on government AIDS policy:
I must only say what [Manto] says and this is official. For me that is gagging.
There’s been no word from parliament yet as to the government’s position on Madlala-Routledge’s comments. Given that the average life expectancy in this country is expected to drop to 50 by 2012 if current trends persist, I sincerely hope they start agreeing with her some time soon.