South Africa: HIV Conference Hit By Mass Food Poisoning

The doomed Gauteng Youth Aids conference was hit by a disaster on Saturday when over 30 delegates had to be rushed to hospital with food poisoning.

The event, set up by Gauteng Aids Council Youth Sector, had already been postponed five times since June over a lack of funding.

However, it finally got underway at the Lakes Hotel last Thursday.

The weekend-long event was all going to plan — until the 150-odd delegates sat down for a buffet lunch on Saturday.

The lavish spread included creamy macaroni with mushrooms, chicken, beef strips, and fish served with rice and pap.

As the day went on, at least 30 of the diners started to report that they were feeling unwell. Things took a dramatic turn for the worst when some started vomiting up their food and others were apparently hit with uncontrollable diarrhoea.

Emergency services had to be called to the hotel to attend to delegates, and transport affected patients to the nearby Tambo Memorial Hospital. Several had to stay overnight and, as of Sunday evening, have still not been discharged.

Noma Msimango, who ordered the mutton, told Scrolla.Africa that the cramps were so excruciating she felt as if she was going into labour.

“The doctor confirmed it was food poisoning. We need to know the cause of the poisoning for those responsible to be held accountable,” she said.

Chairperson of the organising committee, Oagile Louw, called it an “unfortunate incident” and confirmed that the sick delegates had been diagnosed with food poisoning. It remains unclear which of the dishes caused the diners to become ill.

“We relied on the hotel for the venue, accommodation for delegates, and catering,” Louw said.

“Once we noted the crisis we immediately called emergency personnel and notified the department of health to intervene.”

Louw added that health department officials arrived on Sunday morning to take samples of the food. “We are now waiting for their report of findings,” he added.

Lakes Hotel duty manager Simon Khoza said the hotel cannot comment on the matter as they are still awaiting results from the health inspectors.


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