Gambian President Claims To Cure HIV/AIDS, Prompts Concern Among Some Public Health Workers
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh since January has claimed that he can cure HIV/AIDS with an herbal remedy, prompting concern among some public health workers in Africa who already are "struggling against faith healers dispensing herbal remedies," the AP/Monterey County Herald reports. The treatment -- which is applied over several weeks -- involves application of a green paste, as well as application of a gray-colored solution splashed on the people's skin and drinking a yellowish tea-like liquid. In addition, Jammeh said people taking the treatment should refrain from drinking alcohol, tea and coffee; eating kola nuts; and having sex, the AP/Herald reports. The biggest concern among public health workers is that Jammeh asks HIV-positive people to stop taking antiretroviral drugs, which weakens their immune systems and makes them more prone to infections, according to Antonio Filipe, World Health Organization regional adviser in Senegal. Jammeh has sent blood samples from the first nine people who have taken his treatment to a laboratory in Senegal to be tested for HIV. According to a letter from the laboratory, four blood samples had undetectable viral loads, one had a moderate viral load and three had high viral loads. The technician who conducted the tests said the results are not conclusive because the individuals' viral loads were not tested before undergoing Jammeh's treatment. "There is no baseline ... you can't prove that someone has been cured of AIDS from just one data point," Coumba Toure Kane, head of the molecular biology unit at Senegal's Cheikh Anta Diop University, said, adding, "It's dishonest of the Gambian government to use our results in this way." Jammeh said, "Whatever you do, there are bound to be skeptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof." He added that the treatment is "not an argument, [it] is proof. It's a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will." Filipe said WHO respects Jammeh's views but added, "As the World Health Organization, we would like to state quite clearly" that "so far there is no cure for AIDS" (Callimachi, AP/Monterey County Herald, 2/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.