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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Food 'no substitute' in HIV fight
By Peter Biles
BBC News, Johannesburg

Exhibition stand
The government now highlights nutrition as well as drugs
Scientists in South Africa say they have found no evidence that healthier eating is a substitute for medical drugs when treating HIV/Aids and TB.

This follows an exhaustive study on the links between nutrition and treatment.

South Africa's health minister has faced ridicule in the past for stressing the benefits of beetroot, garlic and potatoes in fighting HIV.

South Africa has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates and has increased the rollout of Aids drugs.


The researchers say that scientific evidence about conditions in South Africa was urgently needed.

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
Dr Tshabalala-Msimang was dubbed "Dr Beetroot" for her views

The report by the Academy of Science of South Africa concludes that no food has been identified as an effective alternative to appropriate medication in fighting HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

It acknowledges that nutrition is important for general health, but is not sufficient to contain either the HIV/Aids or the TB epidemic.

It says a well-fed population on its own will not resist HIV/Aids without anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

Controversial Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has been criticised for over-emphasising the importance of nutrition, and under-playing the role of ARVs.

But the government has now adopted a comprehensive approach and about 280,000 people were on ARV treatment at the end of March this year.

However, that is still well short of the estimated 800,000 who are thought to need ARVs in South Africa.

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