Barcelona - Anger and dismay have erupted at the International Aids Conference following Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's comment that anti-retrovirals are "poisons" killing "our people".
Several South African scientists at the Barcelona conference said they were extremely embarrassed by the health minister's remarks, which had undermined South Africa's international image.
Said one government health official, who asked not to be named: "We put so much effort in trying to boost South Africa's image, and then this happens. It is very disappointing."
Tshabalala-Msimang's remarks, later denied by her special adviser, Patricia Lambert, as untrue, were reportedly made to a journalist from Newsday following the opening of the department of health's HIV and Aids stand at the conference.
Lambert said the word "poison" was not used and that the minister was simply "asking why the US Food and Drug Administration had not registered single-dose nevirapine".