Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has again stirred controversy for claiming that he has a “natural cure” for HIV and that he has now successfully treated over 68 patients.
“Who am I to expect that everybody would praise me,” Jammeh said in a state television broadcast on Sunday evening, announcing that 68 patients had been cured and discharged from a treatment centre.
“Just as the Prophet Mohammed prevailed and established Islam (…)I also prevailed to cure HIV/AIDS to the point that 68 are being discharged today,” he said.
Jammeh went on to say that he has “cured” a seventh batch of patients using his so-called herbal remedy. Even more worryingly, Jammeh reportedly said during the Sunday broadcast that he now wants to offer his “natural medicine,” the nature of which has not been disclosed, in all the country’s hospitals.
The exact ingredients of the medicine is shrouded in mystery but it is described by CNN in a 2007 article as “a murky brown concoction of seven herbs and spices” that was “served out of a bottle that once contained pancake syrup.”
Pink News reports that, shortly after announcing the supposed treatment a few years ago, “Gambians lined up to be ‘cured’ by Jammeh, who treated patients by rubbing a mysterious herbal paste into their ribcages and then instructing them to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.”
Jammeh, who has no formal medical training whatsoever, bills the concoction as a complement to Western medicine, but organizations like the World Health Organization and the United Nations have aired their concerns that Jammeh is endangering patients with unfounded claims about a HIV cure that simply does not exist, and that, even more worryingly, there is nothing “complimentary” about the medicine when it requires that patients cease antiretroviral therapy.
What’s more, it appears those who have tried to challenge Jammeh’s “cure” have been silenced.
One critic was Fadzai Gwaradzimba, the U.N. envoy to Gambia. She was abruptly kicked out of the country after saying on February 9 that patients should continue their normal treatment and that Jammeh’s concoction be “assessed by an international team of experts.”
“The U.N. system encourages all patients currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment to continue to comply with their recommended treatment regimens while the efficacy of the new treatment is being assessed,” she said. (Read full statement)
The U.N. Development Program stands by the envoy’s remarks. The World Health Organization has also been critical of Jammeh’s treatment.
Accusations of human rights abuses have dogged Jammeh since he came to power following a military coup in 1994. He once called for the beheading of gay people, a call he would later retract, and has been heavily criticized for his use of firing squads to execute death-row inmates.
There currently exists no known prescription cure for HIV/AIDS, and while one man has effectively been cured following a bone marrow transplant, research is ongoing as to the exact reasons why his HIV symptoms were eradicated and how to make the results reproducible for other HIV/AIDS patients.
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