The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has called on government to settle the court case involving “definitive charlatan” Matthias Rath and government on the one side and the Aids activist group and the South African Medical Association (SAMA) on the other.

The TAC and SAMA case revolves around claims that Rath, a German who has made millions from selling vitamins he claims can cure anything from cancer to HIV-related illnesses, has not complied with the Medicines Act.

Rath stands accused of distributing untested remedies, conducting scientific trials and making unsubstantiated claims.

Government has been charged with doing nothing to stop Rath and not conducting a proper investigation into the matter.

The case is set to start in the Cape High Court on Wednesday (12 March).

“Government has one final opportunity, in the next week, to make an effort to settle this case with the TAC by agreeing to investigate and stop Rath’s illegal activities. By doing this it would demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law generally, and to the Medicines Act in particular,” said the TAC.

“It would also confirm that it has delinked itself from AIDS denialists within and without its ranks and to a stated commitment to a scientific approach to dealing with the HIV epidemic characteristic of the approach in the HIV & AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa 2007-2011. Most importantly, by taking a stand against quackery, government can save lives.

“This is a chance to signal that the ANC congress in Polokwane in December has brought about real change and progress in the struggle against HIV,” the TAC said in a statement.

SAMA and the TAC filed court papers against the state, Matthias Rath and others in November 2005.

They asked the Cape High Court to order the Minister of Health to stop Rath’s experiments on humans, his distribution of unregistered medicines and his false claims that vitamin and micronutrient supplements reverse the course of AIDS.

In its response, the state claimed that it conducted an investigation and found no evidence of wrong-doing by the Rath Foundation.

To date Government has not released the finding of the so-called investigation.

“We have asked the state for the record of this investigation but it has refused. We have not seen any evidence that any proper investigation has been conducted. For example, the Law Enforcement Unit of the Department of Health has not interviewed any of the witnesses who have deposed written affidavits testifying to the illegal activities of the Rath Foundation,” the TAC said.

“With the support of South Africa’s Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, he has sown confusion in South Africa about the treatment and prevention of HIV. The Rath saga demonstrates how damaging politically-supported AIDS denialism is.

“Rath is one of many charlatans taking advantage of vulnerable people with HIV in the country, but he has been one of the most destructive and almost certainly the richest. This case challenges the impunity with which charlatans have been able to act due to the failure of government to enforce the Medicines Act,” the TAC said.

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