New York, Mar 31 2005 11:00AM

United Nations agencies have condemned as wrong, misleading, irresponsible and dangerous a recent advertising campaign that both touts the benefits of vitamin therapy over antiretroviral therapy in treating HIV/AIDS and claims that antiretroviral therapy is toxic.        

In a joint statement the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and UNAIDS, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, criticized particularly "the irresponsible linking of their names" to claims that vitamins and nutrition therapy alone can prevent AIDS deaths.        

"A number of accounts published by Matthias Rath on his website and distributed as flyers and advertisements within South Africa state that a number of United Nations bodies including WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS endorse his approach," the statement said.        

"The three UN organizations are extremely concerned about these misrepresentations and note that the Rath Foundation uses quotes and information from UN agencies out of context. Misrepresentation of this sort is both dangerous and unhelpful."        

Vitamins and nutritional supplements alone cannot take the place of comprehensive treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, including prophylaxis and treatment for opportunistic infections and antiretroviral therapy, where indicated, as well as a good, balanced diet, it added.        

"Antiretroviral therapy has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the replication of HIV in the body, reduce the incidence of opportunistic infections and AIDS related illness and improve quality of life," the agencies said. "In countries where it is widely available, antiretroviral therapy has turned AIDS from a 'death sentence' into a chronic but manageable disease. As with any other drugs, antiretroviral treatments do have side effects that have been documented in clinical trials."        

The statement stressed that as in the population at large, a good diet with the full range of essential micronutrients is important to the health of people infected with HIV and can help bolster the immune system, boost energy levels and maintain body weight and well-being.         

But although nutritional supplements may help to meet increased nutritional requirements, they cannot replace eating a balanced and healthy diet. Whether a person is infected with HIV or not, WHO and UNAIDS recommend a good mixed diet, whenever possible, rather than dietary supplements. For people on antiretroviral therapy, good nutrition and clean water help treatment work more effectively.            
2005-03-31 00:00:00.000