Matthias Rath, MD, ain’t your ordinary zillionaireInternet vitamin mogul. Since the mid-’90s, the German-born Rath hasled a worldwide crusade to take down big pharma, pushing nutrients asan AIDS cure-all and dissing what he considers noxious meds. “Fightingfor a medical breakthrough against existing interests and dogmas islike sailing on the ocean,” the dapper Rath, 50, writes on his website(he wouldn’t comment for POZ). “The wind that blows in your facebecomes your compass.” Since 2002, Rath has placed many priceyfull-page ads in the New York Times and other internationalpublications, insisting that the War on Terror and even the attacks of9/11 were engineered by a drug cartel involving everyone from George W.Bush to the United Nations. The alleged cartel’s goal, he contends, isto keep the world buying patented drugs. Now he’s rejuvenating AIDSdenialism—a movement that has long plagued both HIV-prevention and-treatment efforts by arguing that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS—andbefriending South Africa’s government, where he’s battling a lawsuitfiled by AIDS activists and hindering a long-delayed med rollout.“Rath’s disinformation campaign provides more openings for others whoare undermining efforts to nformation campaign provides more openingsfor others who are undermining efforts to scale up treatment access,”says U.S. Health Gap treatment activist Asia Russell. “Whendisinformation is spread at the [grassroots] level, treatment advocatesworldwide have to band together and oppose it.”

That the SouthAfrican government should welcome Rath’s preposterous theories—say,that micronutrients alone can cure AIDS—is hardly surprising. PresidentThabo Mbeki has long publicized his own doubts that HIV causes AIDS,and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, MD—who touts lemon juice,olive oil and beets as med alternatives—said May 5 that she was “nothappy” that 42,000 positive South Africans were finally gettingantiretrovirals (ARVs). (The nation has the world’s largest number ofHIVers at 5.6 million.) At a recent pro-Rath rally, 100 members ofSouth Africa’s Traditional Healers Organization showed support. OneSouth African former nurse, Tine van der Maas, even claims to havetreated 40,000 patients with lemon and olive oil. “[Anti-Rathactivists] talk about how ARVs can slow the disease, but we canactually reverse it,” she told “We’ve had patients with a CD4count of 1 whose count is now 780.” Nathan Geffen of South Africa’sTreatment Action Campaign (TAC)  responds, “I’m sure that if yougive people proper nutrition and tender loving care, some will reboundfor a while. But people need good nutrition and ARVs.”

Rath isbest known for his work in the ’80s with the late Nobel laureatephysicist Linus Pauling, who was trying to prove that vitamin C couldremedy everything from colds to cancer. Rath mounted ad campaigns inBritain, Switzerland and Germany from 2000 till 2002, claiming his$30-a-month multivitamins could cure heart disease and cancer. The UKAdvertising Standards Authority censured his leaflets; the Swiss CancerLeague called his claims objectionable; and in Germany, Rath isinvolved in an investigation with the death of a 9-year-old boy withbone cancer (he’d convinced the parents that his supplements workedbetter than chemotherapy). When South African authorities censuredRath’s ads for AIDS cure-alls there last summer, he leafletedtownships, alleging that activist pioneers TAC paid demonstrators “tomarch against our government on behalf of foreign pharmaceuticalmultinationals.” Says Geffen, “At first we thought his ads were tooinsane to bother with. Then people started calling in and saying they’dstopped taking their ARVs because of Rath. We felt we had to takeaction.”

Led by PWA Zackie Achmat, TAC sought a court injunctionto stop Rath from defaming TAC as a pharma front in his ads and alsodemanded his arrest for illegal medical experimentation. “We believe hehas broken criminal law in distributing unregistered medicines andconducting a trial without the approval of our Medical ResearchCouncil,” Geffen says. (At press time, the hearing was about to takeplace.) But Rath has made other enemies, too: The World HealthOrganization, United Nations and UNICEF issued this statement on March30: “[We] have condemned the irresponsible linking of our names toclaims that vitamins and nutrition therapy alone can prevent AIDSdeaths.” While Rath has yet to seduce the American HIV community, hemaintains an office in Santa Clara, California, and ran an ad in May inthe New York Times headlined “Stop AIDS Genocide by the Drug Cartel.”

Rath’sSouth African spokesman Anthony Brink, a lawyer who has long campaignedagainst AIDS meds, says, “As a journalist, you’re either hip tocolossal, murderous fraud or you’re not. Mbeki is; Tshabalala-Msimangis; and the highest level of [our government] is, thanks to the blood Isweated laying it bare virtually alone in South Africa for adecade—till this year when I ran into this radical doctor fromGermany.”