While I am not an ANC member and will probably never be one, the rubbishing of the late Dr. Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang on trumped-up charges by The Citizen columnist, Michael Coetzee and condemning her in the manner he did should and will not go unchallenged, (The Citizen, December 24. 2009).

It is absolute twaddle to concoct outrageous statistics that in 40 years the Apartheid regime killed only 2000 while HIV/AIDS kills 1000 people every day. Millions of Africans died of preventable diseases, malnutrition in the mines and prisons. What about cross-border raids and Apartheid South Africa’s destabilization of the Frontline states in the then SADCC region in the 1970’s and 1980’s that resulted in the deaths of more than 5 million children, according to a UNICEF report during that time?

Can Coetzee show us one death certificate indicating that so and so died of AIDS? As a corollary to the preceding question, who exactly did the late Tshabalala-Msimang condemn to death and in what way? Is Coetzee aware of a recent WHO study showing that antiretrovirals have high levels of toxicity? Rather than its users dying of AIDS related diseases, they instead die of hepatotoxicity (liver poisoning).

Medical institutions in the US emphasise the importance of involving patients in therapy choices and recommend analyzing the risks and potential benefits to patients without symptoms. Does that happen in this country?

The antiretrovirals the late Tshabalala-Msimang is unfairly accused of having denied HIV/AIDS sufferers are a drug cocktail. They are a combination of protease inhibitors taken with reverse transcriptase inhibitors. It is possible that these drugs also inhibit the normal functioning of the DNA polymerase enzyme within the human cells. Has Coetzee and his ilk considered that as a trained medical doctor, this could be one of the issues the late Tshabalala-Msimang took into cognisance?

Coetzee also decries the fact that the flag of the Republic of South Africa was degraded by having been allowed to drape the coffin of someone with the blood of thousands of innocent people on her hands. Tshabalala-Msimang, to the best of my knowledge, did not kill anybody and her coffin was draped with the flag of the republic because she was a minister of the state.

It is interesting that Coetzee saw nothing wrong when a murderous and unrepentant thug like PW Botha was given a state funeral. You must look before you leap, Coetzee.

And what is the medical science status of the retroviruses and antiretroviral drugs the late Dr Mantombazana Tshabala-Msimang was unfairly criticized for having refused to provide to Aids sufferers? They are medications for the treatment of infection by retroviruses. A retrovirus is an RNA virus that is replicated in a host cell via an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to produce DNA from its RNA genome. The DNA is then incorporated into the host’s genome by an integrase enzyme. The virus thereafter replicates as part of the host cell’s DNA.

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