Bhengu family upset by 'insensitive' TAC

The family of HIV-positive Nozipho Bhengu on Wednesday accused the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) of insensitivity and wanting to promote its own agenda.

The daughter of KwaZulu-Natal politician Ruth Bhengu, 32-year-old Nozipho died in hospital on Friday. Declared HIV-positive in 1998, her status was made public by her mother in May 2001.

Nozipho was a keen follower of the controversial lemon and garlic diet for at least three years, at one stage even claiming: "It works, I'm the scientific proof."

"As the family we take strong exception to the TAC's statement (that Nozipho could have still been alive if she took antiretrovirals)," family spokesperson Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said.

"The statement shows a high degree of insensitivity and shows that the TAC is using Nozipho's death to further their own narrow agenda."

Mthimkhulu said Bhengu had believed in good nutrition as a tool to fight HIV and Aids, but did not condemn the use of anti-retrovirals.

Mthimkhulu challenged the TAC to "tell how many people have not died" due to using anti-retrovirals.

But, he added, the family was in mourning and did not want to get involved in a debate on the use of anti-retrovirals versus natural treatments to control HIV and Aids.

In its statement, the TAC said Bhengu's death was unnecessary and premature.

"She had the means to afford the best medicine, care and nutrition," it said.

"It is highly likely that she would still be alive and well today if she had chosen to take anti-retroviral treatment when she developed Aids."

The TAC said it respected people's right to choose the course of treatment they followed, but many were vulnerable and open to exploitation.

"While certain herbal and other remedies may alleviate Aids symptoms, no evidence yet exists to show they are equally safe and effective alternatives to anti-retroviral medicines," the TAC said.

"This is what people must know and base their HIV and Aids treatment decisions on.

"The science on anti-retrovirals is established."

Nozipho is to be buried at 10am on Saturday after a funeral service at the Plessislaer College Hall at Imbali Township in Pietermaritzburg. - Sapa

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