'IT'S EXPLOITATION': MEC Peggy Nkonyeni. © Sowetan.
'IT'S EXPLOITATION': MEC Peggy Nkonyeni. © Sowetan.

Canaan Mdletshe

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Peggy Nkonyeni has expressed concern at " unauthorised" HIV-Aids drug trials conducted in rural areas of the province by independent companies.

She said she feared that the public, mainly black illiterate folk, were being exploited in the process.

She was speaking on Saturday at Gingindlovu, at the 97th year commemoration of Catherine Booth Hospital, and the remembrance of seven workers who were killed in a motor vehicle crash in 2002.

Nkonyeni said a repetition of clinical trials, conducted in different parts of the province such as Hlabisa, Ezimbokodweni and Mbumbulu, was a matter of "over-researching".

"This is worrying. More so because those doing it don't consult the department so that we can monitor if all the correct clinical guidelines are being followed when such research is undertaken."

She said more worrying was whether the people who participate in the trials fully understood the consequences.

"Our concern is that only illiterate, black people are targeted to participate in these trials. Does it mean blacks are the only people who are affected and infected with the disease?

"We are not sure if those taking part do so with a full understanding of what they put themselves into and whether they sign a consent form."

Nkonyeni said those who participated should be insured so that if they got infected during the trials, they could go to any medical institution to receive attention.

"Also, they have to be compensated if something goes wrong, but I don't think this is the case here.

"Rural poor people just participate because they see it as a job opportunity, as they are paid R100. This is exploitation of poor people, and as a result, there is a 60percent prevalence of Aids in this province and Hlabisa is at the top."

She said her department also wanted to know "whose interest" was being served by these continued trials.

She urged people not to take part in these trials because they were being "exploited" and their rights violated.

She said her department was now looking at ways of ending the HIV-Aids trials.