A row over the safety of a key anti-Aids drug is dominating South Africa's first national conference on HIV and Aids which began on Sunday.
Protesters say many lives could be saved each day
Last week, the country's Medicines Control Council (MCC) threatened to ban the only approved anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine, even though research has shown it can cut mother-to-baby infection rates by nearly a half.
Hundreds of protesters have marched in Durban.
They are already angry over the government's refusal to implement an anti-retroviral drugs programme which could prolong the lives of Aids patients.
At the opening of the four day conference being attended by international experts on Aids, South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was jeered as she attempted to defend the government's controversial treatment policies.
An estimated 4.5 million South Africans are infected with HIV - the highest number in any country in the world.
The MCC has given the drug's German manufacturer 90 days to prove the drug is safe, after it rejected a Ugandan study.
The health minister has also caused a stir by proposing that Aids sufferers eat garlic, onions, olive oil and African potatoes to boost their immune systems.
A recent report from the University of Stellenbosch said most patients given an extract from the African potato actually became more ill after initial signs of improvement.
The researchers at the university, north of Cape Town, said raw garlic could increase internal bleeding and interfere with drugs and that olive oil had no proven effect.
But the health minister told the BBC that nutrition and the use of traditional medicine was the focus of the government's efforts to treat the epidemic and strong prevention policies were in place.
"We have never said we don't need anti-retroviral drugs," Ms Tshabalala-Msimang told the BBC's Newshour programme.
"The issue has been the cost.
"I am saying now, thanks to our scientists as well, that we know that traditional and nutritional supplements work as well."
And she stood by the MCC decision to look more closely at Nevirapine - a drug considered vital by the World Health Organisation.
"The MCC is an autonomous body," she said. "They are sent out there to advise me on policy and therefore I depend on them to finalise their queries and concerns, and they'll come back to me."
Many people at the three-day conference in Durban disagree with the government's policy.
The Treatment Action Campaign pressure group - which last year won a court victory forcing the state to provide Nevirapine drugs to pregnant HIV-positive mothers - has voted to resume its campaign of civil disobedience in its pursuit of anti-retroviral drugs for all.
The group has laid charges of culpable homicide against the health minister over the 600 South Africans estimated to die every day of Aids-related illnesses.
Aids campaigner Dr Mervyn Silverman, who has been working at the forefront of Aids research in the United States for 22 years, is also highly critical of the South African Government.
"I think it's tragic that the leadership in South Africa have not looked at this epidemic as an incredible threat to really their economic and human survival in that country," he told the BBC.