Treatment/traditional medicine/politics
Mail and Guardian, 4 October 2002, Inkatha Now Wants in On HIV/Aids 'Muti', Sam Sole

The Inkatha Freedom Party has decided to invest in Hypo-Plus, a controversial product that claims to be effective in the treatment of HIV/Aids.

The Mail & Guardian revealed last week that the African National Congress's Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association was linked to a company involved in marketing Hypo-Plus. Now it has emerged that the IFP is also interested in promoting the product.

IFP sources told the M&G that two doctors had made a presentation to the IFP national council in Ulundi about six weeks ago.

Dr Smangaliso Hlengwa and Dr Daluxolo Myeni have been using Hypo-Plus to treat Aids patients at Hlabisa in KwaZulu-Natal and apparently told the IFP their patients had shown significant improvement.

The sources, who asked not to be named, said Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the IFP leader, told the party he had privately discussed Hypo-Plus with Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. He reportedly told the gathering that Tshabalala-Msimang had said she was aware of the product and supported its use.

Hypo-Plus, a multivitamin containing extracts of mopani worm and the African potato, is sold as a food supplement. But the manufacturers make clear medical claims on the product's website, which would make it liable for registration by the Medicines Control Council. The council has already launched an investigation into whether the product falls foul of legislation on medicines.

Repeated attempts to get comment from the Ministery of Health were unsuccessful at the time of going to press. MZ Khumalo, the IFP's secretary general, referred queries to Musa Zondi, the party's national spokesperson, but he could not be reached.

One source described the IFP response to the doctors' slide presentation as "very emotional", because KwaZulu-Natal is the epicentre of the Aids epidemic.

The party decided that funds should be raised from a monthly levy on all IFP office-bearers and that a sub-committee be set up to determine how the IFP should become involved with Hypo-Plus.

IFP officials say that funds have been earmarked to help arrange proper clinical trials for the product and that Johannesburg attorneys have been approached to safeguard its patent protection. But these plans were put on hold after last week's article in the M&G, which was apparently read out at the IFP's national council meeting last weekend.

Dr Olaf Baloyi, chairperson of the IFP's HIV/Aids directorate, said he could not comment on internal party proceedings, but he confirmed that the IFP's HIV/Aids team would take a careful scientific look at the claims made for Hypo-Plus.

Myeni said things were "still at an early stage" and that he and Hlengwa were trying to arrange clinical trials. He said a presentation had been made to the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

"People are desperate," said a senior IFP official. "No one is saying this is a cure, but I believe we should follow up anything that offers hope."