South African Aids group takes doctor to court
13 May 2005, CAPE TOWN - Lawyers for German doctor Matthias Rath, who has been accused of defaming and undermining the work of Aids activists in South Africa, accused the media on Friday of participating in a campaign of "vilification" against him and his foundation.
13 May 2005
CAPE TOWN - Lawyers for German doctor Matthias Rath, who has been accused of defaming and undermining the work of Aids activists in South Africa, accused the media on Friday of participating in a campaign of "vilification" against him and his foundation.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the country's foremost Aids lobby group, is seeking an urgent interdict in the Cape High Court in a bid to force Rath to cease making claims against it, including an allegation that the group is a front for, and funded by, the pharmaceutical industry.
The TAC and Rath have for months been at loggerheads over the promotion of Rath's multivitamin and micronutrient therapy for HIV/Aids patients as a safer alternative to anti-retroviral therapy which he has said is "highly toxic".
The court ruled on Friday that the case was not about the toxicity of the drugs, but about allegations of defamation by the TAC.
Addressing the court, where proceedings were interrupted by noisy supporters of the two parties, advocate John van der Berg acting for Rath and the Rath Foundation said: "There has been a campaign in the court of public opinion."
He added: "This has been entirely one-sided and anti-Rath."
Van der Berg denied as "mischievous" any claim that his client was profiting from the vitamins he was promoting, and pointed to an affidavit by Rath in which he states: "I haven't sold a single bottle of pills in South Africa and I don't intend to."
The hearing was also presented with a request to allow the Traditional Healers Organisation, a body that supports Rath, to participate in the court action.
In an interview aired by public radio while the case was under way on Friday, Rath accused the TAC of "running around like a Mother Teresa" while, he noted, "it's a kind of Trojan Horse" and a "wolf in sheep's clothing".
"What we do and say has a solid scientific basis," he said. Rath has also been campaigning against the drugs through widely distributed print advertisements in some of the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town, including Khayelitsha, where infection rates are high.
His message on anti-retrovirals has drawn much public interest and outrage in the country, where more than five million people are infected with the disease, with Rath being labelled a "lotion and potion salesman", a "quack" and an "opportunist".
The TAC, instrumental in forcing the government to provide anti- retroviral Aids drugs, denies it is linked to the pharmaceutical industry.
It has accused Rath of conducting "illegal experiments" on people in impoverished townships.
In a statement on Friday the group said: "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 spokesman Nathan Geffen meanwhile on Friday told the radio station that Rath was creating public confusion and anger in places like Khayelitsha.
South Africa's Medicines Control Council has confirmed that it is investigating the German doctor, who has operations in other parts of the world, while researchers at Harvard University in the United States have also criticised him.
The controversy surrounding Rath comes as an estimated 500,000 HIV/Aids patients contemplate the state-run anti-retroviral therapy programme that has reached around 50,000 patients to date.
Subject: German news