Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

A step back for South Africa

South African president Thabo Mbeki, famous for questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, has dismissed Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the health minister who seemed to be making a real difference to the country’s fight against AIDS.

Madlala-Routledge had replaced previous health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang — often called simply “Manto” — who likes to offer beetroot, lemon juice and garlic as remedies for AIDS. After that particular brand of denialism, Madlala-Routledge’s tenure was particularly welcome, as I wrote last November.

After her arrival, South Africa announced a comprehensive prevention program and openly acknowledged the gravity of its epidemic. Only a few days ago, the government announced that for the first time in years, its HIV prevalence had fallen — albeit not by much.

It’s a shame that the president has so quickly undone the small progress the country had made. No more beetroot and garlic, please!

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