11 January 2005

Media reports of the death of former President Nelson Mandela's son
Makgatho on 6 January 2005 have ascribed it to AIDS.

This is incorrect. According to his brother-in-law
Dr Isaac Amuah, quoted in the Washington Post on the same day, 'the
immediate cause of Makgatho's death was complications from a gall bladder operation' on 30

He mentioned to the Sunday Times that he'd also suffered 'problems with
his pancreas'.
Regrettably, the misconception that Makgatho Mandela died of AIDS
originated from
former President Mandela himself, as indicated in the headline of the
article, 'Mandela
Says AIDS Led to Death of Son'. The Washington Post quoted Dr Amuah
adding: 'But
he said that AIDS was a contributing factor and that Mandela was
determined to portray
the death as resulting from AIDS to demystify the disease.'

Addressing journalists at his home, Mandela said that declaring that his
son had 'died of AIDS . was the only way to turn the tide and make
HIV/AIDS an ordinary disease like any other'.
According to Dr Amuah, Makgatho 'had been receiving antiretroviral
treatment for more
than a year'. Pancreatitis and gall bladder problems, caused by lactic
acidosis, are a wellknown consequence of ARV drug toxicity.

The gall bladder is part of the liver system;
liver failure is now the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people
treated with
ARVs (Reuters, 19 November 1999 - see: http://aras.ab.ca/haart.html and
http://aras.ab.ca/azt.html (search: 'pancreas', 'gall bladder' and
'liver'); and read
Debating AZT: Mbeki and the AIDS controversy and The trouble with
nevirapine, both
posted at www.tig.org.za).

Although the potentially lethal toxicity of ARVs such as AZT and
nevirapine is abundantly established in the medical literature, this is
little known by
the newspaper-reading public due to their billing always as 'life-saving'
by wellintentioned journalists, and, in the case of the Mail&Guardian, express editorial
policy to promote the sale and use of these drugs and to black out any
countervailing information.

On 26 November 2004, for instance, we published an invited article in the
World AIDS
Day supplement of that newspaper, in which we stated, inter alia, that
'Hundreds of
studies have found that AZT is profoundly toxic to all cells of the human
body, and
particularly to the blood cells of the immune system' and that 'Numerous
studies have
found that children exposed to AZT in the womb and after birth suffer
brain damage,
neurological disorders, paralysis, spasticity, mental retardation,
epilepsy, other serious
diseases and early death.'

We referred readers to shocking recent research findings in this latter
regard, canvassed in our letters to the Medicines Control Council about
this and posted on our website www.tig.org.za under the title 'Poisoning
our Children: AZT and
nevirapine in pregnancy'. This drew a barrage of hostile letters, three of
which claimed
that such information could actually 'kill people'. M&G editor Ferial
Haffejee reacted by
apologizing for publishing our article, stating that it 'should not have
been carried' and
that such writing 'will not be carried in the Mail&Guardian in future'.

After agreeing to publish our reply, Haffejee spiked it just before going
to press. Chief
Operations Officer Hoosain Karjeiker explained that what was objectionable
about it was
our reference to 'the side effects of extremely toxic pharmaceutical drugs
like AZT and
nevirapine'. 'We are proponents of AZT,' he said. 'Once again the ad casts
aspersions on
AZT and nevirapine.' 'Do you mean it's unacceptable to state that AZT is
toxic?' we
asked incredulously. 'Yes,' he replied; it's 'dissident'. Haffejee
confirmed that the
'position of the M&G is that everyone is entitled to treatment' with ARV
drugs, and announced that the merits weren't open to debate. 'Our
newspaper has been at the forefront of the push for antiretrovirals in
this country.

Our brand has suffered because of
your ad two weeks ago. The new ad contains the same message, albeit not as
Publishing it will continue to damage our brand.' (Protecting the
newspaper's commercial brand, tied to the reputation of the toxic drugs it
has uncritically championed, was deemed more important than readers' right
to arrive at their own informed opinions about them.) Reacting to news
that the Treatment Action Campaign had gone on to complain to the
Advertising Standards Authority about our article, the Mail&Guardian
quoted Haffejee repeating: 'This newspaper has always supported the need
for an effective anti-retroviral programme and will not in future carry
any advertising which dilutes this message or creates confusion in the
minds of readers.'

It has now become politically incorrect, unprogressive, 'confusing',
unacceptable - even
dangerous - to make the simple statement in the media that AZT and
nevirapine are toxic, let alone caution, as the medical literature does,
that they are potentially deadly.

This explains why a major exposť in mid-December by Associated Press in
New York
concerning the HIVNET 012 nevirapine and AZT scandal went unreported in
the Mail&Guardian - even as it made front-page news in more than a
thousand major newspapers and science and medical journals worldwide. AP
disclosed that 'thousands' of adverse events and numerous fatalities among
Ugandan mothers and their babies given nevirapine and AZT were not
recorded by the American researchers running the trial; and when
independent audits revealed this, the US National Institutes of Health,
which had sponsored the study, fraudulently suppressed the embarrassing
information so as not to upset President George W Bush's plans to spend
millions shipping nevirapine into
African maternity wards.

Just as Makgatho Mandela's death was wrongly attributed to 'AIDS', so the
AP exposť
similarly related how the death of Joyce Ann Hafford - a healthy
black American woman killed in July 2003 by a couple of weeks of
nevirapine treatment given to her because she was HIV-positive - was also
chalked up by her doctors to 'AIDS' instead.

We too very much regret the untimely death of Makgatho Mandela. It is
doubly tragic
that he should apparently have been killed by the very drugs that his
father, former
President Mandela, has been misled into promoting in South Africa; and it
the question we asked in the headline of our offending article in the
'Why should South Africans continue to be poisoned by AZT?' And by similar