By Zara Nicholson

Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has been saluted for her "refreshing honesty" and bravery in slamming the health minister and President Thabo Mbeki for their "confusing messages" on HIV and Aids treatment.

It has also been reported that Madlala-Routledge has broken new ground by taking her family with her for an HIV test and she has called on Mbeki to do the same.

"To me, it is logical that people in the leadership see the need to do this," she said.

Reacting to Madlala-Routledge's comments, made to a British journalist last week, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) chairperson Zackie Achmat said it was "a defining moment".

"It is a remarkable, candid, open statement and we hope the president will accept it as a diverse opinion and honest criticism."

He said it was a "defining moment for South Africa for a government leader to criticise government policy".

He said much progress on fighting the pandemic had been made between the TAC and government. For this, he thanked the leadership of the cabinet, the deputy president and the deputy health minister.

He said TAC had "toned down" its call for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to be axed.

Instead, he said: "We are asking them to embrace this defining moment and the way they deal with this statement is very important for our democracy."

Opposition parties hinted that the deputy health minister's outspoken comments indicated that she was well placed to replace Tshabalala-Msimang.

In an interview with a British newspaper, Madlala-Routledge criticised those who encouraged the use of traditional medicines as opposed to conventional treatment.