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South African Health Minister Rejects Calls for Resignation


South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has rejected calls for her resignation, saying she has not neglected her duties.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Tshabalala-Msimang says she still has the support of President Thabo Mbeki and questioned what it is she has done wrong.

The health minister - who has been widely ridiculed for promoting garlic and other foods as treatments for AIDS - has come under fire again after a newspaper report said years of alcohol abuse had necessitated her recent liver transplant.

The report by South Africa's Sunday Times also indicated the president helped arrange the operation.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko Thursday called the media coverage distasteful and said the newspaper account was based on unlawful theft and publication of medical records.

Maseko also rejected the claim Mr. Mbeki enabled the health minister's transplant but would not comment further on the allegations made against her.

On Wednesday, a panel of leading South African nutritionists, disease specialists and policy experts issued a report saying there is no evidence that good nutrition can prevent AIDS or tuberculosis, contradicting claims made by the health minister.

Critics have long accused the government of being too slow to confront South Africa's AIDS epidemic. Approximately 5.5 million South Africans have AIDS or HIV.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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