Traditional medicines used by African healers should not be exposed to Western-style clinical trials, South Africa's controversial health minister was reported as saying Saturday.

"We cannot use Western models of protocols for research and development," Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said in a speech to a working group set up by President Thabo Mbeki to regulate the ancient craft, according to SAPA news agency.

"We should guard against being bogged down with clinical trials," she said, adding that "some of the medicines have been used by traditional healers for thousands of years".

Tshabalala-Msimang has faced ridicule in the past over her championing of garlic and vegetables to help combat HIV, which affects some 5.5 million South Africans out of a population of 48 million.

Recent United Nations' data has shown South Africa to have the worst rate of HIV sufferers on the planet. Mbeki has also been criticised for questioning the link between HIV and AIDS in the past.

Tshabalala-Msimang said she was not opposed to all clinical trials, but that they needed appropriate "protocols" for traditional medicines. She also criticised "charlatans" who give traditional African medicine a bad name by promising results that cannot be delivered.

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 23, 2008 (AFP)


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