June 23, 2009
Advertisements for an herbal supplement for HIV/AIDS patients have been running on the bottom of the Web site for the African National Congress Party's Youth League. However, ANC representatives say they outsourced the advertising and that site visitors can best evaluate such claims.
On June 18, a Revivo advertisement on the Youth League Web site read "Herbs that may kill HIV," inviting users to click on the ad to learn more. The Revivo Web site itself claims the supplement contains "the safest and most effective" of herbs that destroy "more than 95 percent of the virus," concurrent with a disclaimer that the product is not being sold as a "cure, treatment or remedy for AIDS or HIV."
The Treatment Action Campaign began investigating Revivo after "consistently" receiving telephone calls from people asking whether the herbal product might work for them, said TAC's Rebecca Hodes. The audience being targeted by these ads, South African youths, have the highest HIV prevalence in the nation, she said.
The Youth League has been selling advertising space on its Web page since January, said Oscar Masubelele, who oversees the site. Donations had failed to cover Web maintenance costs, and overtures to private advertisers were unsuccessful, he said. For R35,000 (US $4,277) a month, the league pays Google to keep the site up and running, and Google coordinates the advertising independently.
"As a political organization, we need to find ways of funding," said Magdalene Moonsamy, a league media spokesperson. She denied the league had any responsibility for monitoring the site's advertising content. "This is a small little thing at the bottom of the page. If you are really curious enough, you will go and see what it's all about."