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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
SA healers called in to fight Aids
Traditional healer
Many South Africans put their faith in traditional medicine
The South African Government is to set up an institute of traditional medicine, as part of its fight against Aids.

Speaking at an anti-smoking conference in Iceland, Health Minister Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang said traditional medicines did work and their approach would not just be based on anti-retrovirals.

"On August 31 I am launching a national institute for traditional medicine because I think there is scope for it," she said.

Ms Tshabalala-Msimang was jeered at South Africa's first major Aids conference on Sunday, because of her government's reluctance to distribute anti-retroviral drugs, which help relieve Aids.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane urged the government to do more to combat Aids, saying the pandemic "has become a world disgrace as serious as apartheid".

'Political will'

Activists say that some 600 South Africans die from Aids-related diseases every day.

An estimated 5 million South Africans are HIV positive - more than any other country.

Protesters march in Durban over government inaction on Aids/HIV treatment

"We as the church feel let down by our elected government, who shows no political will at all in trying to save the lives of people who are dying each day from Aids," said Archbishop Ndungane.

The government says that ensuring that people eat well is just as important as providing anti-retrovirals to those with HIV and Aids.

Last week, South Africa's Medicines Control Council 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.

The government has said it may be toxic.

However, at the Aids conference in the port city of Durban, the director general of the health department has said it's a matter of when, rather than if anti-retrovirals will be introduced.

The BBC's Peter Biles
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