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Scientists, Nobel Laureate Ask Mbeki to Dismiss Health Minister

More than 80 scientists including a Nobel laureate in medicine are urging South African President Thabo Mbeki to fire the country's controversial health minister.

In a letter to Mr. Mbeki, the 81 signatories said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has promoted "ineffective and immoral" policies to deal with the country's AIDS crisis.

Nobel laureate David Baltimore and Robert Gallo, who developed the first HIV blood test, are among the signatories.

Tshabalala-Msimang has drawn heavy criticism at home and abroad for promoting nutrition over anti-retroviral medication as an effective treatment for HIV and AIDS. The letter called such remedies "pseudo-scientific."

The United Nations AIDS program estimates that 5.5 million South Africans are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Tshabalala-Msimang most recently came under fire last month at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto for promoting garlic and beetroot as alternative treatments for HIV and AIDS.

The letter to Mr. Mbeki said the health minister is an "embarrassment" who has no international respect.

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