South African finance minister Trevor Manuel last week dismissed evidence of the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs and called the medications "voodoo," allAfrica.com reports. Manuel also said spending government money on the drugs would be a "waste of very limited resources." Manuel was speaking before a parliament committee debating the appropriations bill for the national budget. Members of the activist group Treatment Action Campaign left the committee meeting after Manuel's comments and comments by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who said that "garlic, lemon, olive oil, and African potatoes" are better HIV treatments than antiretroviral drugs. TAC spokeswoman Sipho Mthathi said Tshabalala-Msimang's and Manuel's statements were "astonishing" and representative of the South African government's dismissal of calls from the nation's 4 million HIV-positive people for lifesaving anti-HIV medications.
TAC filed manslaughter charges last week against Tshabalala-Msimang and Trade Minister Alec Erwin for not providing adequate treatment for the nation's HIV-positive residents. The criminal charges were filed with police in the town of Sharpeville. In South Africa people can file criminal charges with police, who then pass the accusations on to prosecutors, who decide whether to press formal charges. There has been no word yet from prosecutors whether formal charges will be filed.