HIV :: HIV experts warn about Gambia’s President’s claim of AIDS cure

An unsubstantiated but well-publicised claim by The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh that he can cure AIDS risks setting back efforts to stop the virus from spreading in the tiny West Africa nation and the region, campaigners warn.

Speaking to an audience of hospital workers, AIDS activists, and diplomats in mid-January, Jammeh announced that he had ?perfected a treatment for the AIDS virus? using herbs. Patients would be cured within days, he promised.

Gambia?s Minister of Health, Tamsir Mbowe has confirmed that the first ten reportedly HIV-infected patients began receiving the treatment at the end of January. His department has released several statements saying that the health of patients has improved, that their immune systems are stronger and that in some patients, the virus was no longer detectable. Patients purportedly healed have appeared regularly on state-run television.

The cure?s secret ingredients according to Mbowe are Jammeh?s ?family knowledge of traditional medicine? and ?the teachings of the holy Koran.?

The international community is waiting for proof before it makes a judgement on Jammeh?s cure.

?We are working on a coordinated response by the UN system? an official with the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said, adding that UNAIDS hoped to release a statement in the coming days.

An expert with the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that international organisations were having difficulty obtaining relevant information from Gambian authorities.

?We have asked to visit the laboratory to see how the treatment works but have had no response from the department of health,? the official, who asked to speak anonymously said.

?We also asked the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) to provide us with a copy of the broadcast of the treatment being administered to patients but have received no response,? said the WHO official.

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