United Nations aid agencies on Thursday slammed prominent AIDS “dissident” Matthias Rath for what they called his wrong and dangerous campaign against life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs.
The maverick German doctor placed advertisements in international newspapers this week, days before he faces a court challenge in South Africa brought by the activist group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Rath’s advertisements, which tout the benefits of vitamin therapy above antiretroviral (ARV) drugs he dismisses as toxic, are “wrong and misleading,” U.N. agencies said.
They issued a joint statement headlined “United Nations condemns irresponsible attack on antiretroviral therapy.”
“Misrepresentations of this sort are both dangerous and unhelpful,” declared the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS known as UNAIDS, and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“In countries where it is widely available, antiretroviral therapy has turned AIDS from a ‘death sentence’ into a chronic but manageable disease,” they said.
Rath, who runs a vitamin company, and other AIDS “dissidents” have cast doubt on the links between HIV and AIDS and the use of drugs to treat the disease.
He accuses the United States, Britain, the World Bank and the United Nations of promoting expensive drugs on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, and claims that TAC is a front for the “drug cartel.”
His foundation, which has offices in Germany, the United States and the Netherlands, earlier this year ran a campaign in South African newspapers, arguing antiretrovirals are poisons that kill and cause deformities in babies.
TAC, South Africa’s most influential activist group, is suing the Rath Foundation for alleged defamation and what it says are lies about AIDS drugs.
The U.N. agencies, which are trying to increase access in poor countries to such drugs, also denounced Rath’s Web Site and advertisements for using quotes and information from U.N. agencies “out of context.”
Studies on the role of micronutrient supplements on the course of HIV/AIDS have been inconclusive, the statement said.
“Vitamins and nutritional supplements alone can not take the place of comprehensive treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS,” it said. Such care should include treatment for infections, antiretroviral therapy and a good, balanced diet.
“Antiretroviral therapy has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the replication of HIV in the body, reduce the incidence of opportunistic infections and AIDS-related illness and improve quality of life,” the statement added.
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD