He’s not just the president of Gambia, he’s also a quack doctor!

It seems everyone wants to get in on the quack herbal cure market these days. Enter Gambian president Yahya Jammeh who is claiming to have developed an AIDS cure from herbs and bananas:

From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia’s president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste on to the ribcage of his patient. He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

“Whatever you do there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,” Yahya Jammeh says, surrounded by his bodyguards inside his presidential compound as he prepares to treat more patients.

“Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It’s a declaration. I can cure AIDS, and I will.”

Yeah, I’m definitely skeptical of his claim. The problem here isn’t just that Jammeh is giving false hope to the desperately ill in his country, but he’s also insisting that people who receive his treatment have to stop taking their anti-retroviral drugs which will leave the immune system weakened and more susceptible to infection. He claims that blood samples from his first 9 patients are proof that his cure works though the lab did the testing says it doesn’t really prove anything:

He has gone to great lengths to prove his claim, arranging for blood samples of the first nine patients to be sent to a lab in Senegal for testing. A letter on the lab’s stationery indicates that of the nine, four had undetectable viral loads, one had a moderate viral load and three had high loads, a result posted on the government’s website as proof of the cure. However, the lab technician who performed the tests warned they are not conclusive, since the blood samples were taken only after the treatment.

“There is no baseline … you can’t prove that someone has been cured of AIDS from just one data point. It’s dishonest of the Gambian government to use our results this way,” said Dr Coumba Toure Kane, head of the molecular biology unit at Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop University.

Meanwhile some of his patients are saying the same things you hear from other folks who buy into the whole herbal cure racket:

The patients say they do not need lab results to tell them they feel better.“It feels as if the president took the pain out of my body,” says Ousman Sowe, 54, who says he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996.

I suppose it’s possible that he has found a cure for AIDS, but it’s irresponsible to make such a claim without proof that it actually works beyond a few questionable blood tests. The one upside to this story is that president Jammeh isn’t charging anything for his treatment. That’ll be little comfort to his patients when the disease their suffering from proves his claims wrong.

5 thoughts on “He’s not just the president of Gambia, he’s also a quack doctor!

  1. It would only be an active ingredient that would be having any effect
    Sometimes biologically active chemicals are extracted from plants/fungi when an effect is observed – nature develops elaborate answers to problems by evolution, and if nature can make it you know there is a synthetic way, even if it is drastically less efficient without the benefit of enzymes, synthetic chemists however have the adantage of being able to use more forceful conditions and chemicals that would kill living systems (ideally you would like to remove traces of these from the medicine before you give it to people).

    You would have to resolve the shape and structure of the target in order to design a molecule to bind to it, and biochemists actively do this, it’s just at the moment it’s quicker to find synthetic ways to make things pre-designed by nature, or to see which part of the molecule is active and modify the less important parts for modified properties and make-ability. Given time we might find more efficient methods than nature, because synthetic chemists can use a wider variety of methods.

    Synthetic medicienes nowadays have much fewer side effects since people realised stereochemistry needed to be controlled. Nature uses stereochemically pure enzymes so makes stereochemically pure products, and enzymes do deserve consideration in synthetic chemistry, they tend to be sensitive and expensive though

  2. “It feels as if the president took the pain out of my body,” says Ousman Sowe, 54, who says he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996

    Does HIV cause pain?  I was under the impression you could have it and be completely unaware.

  3. HIV may not cause pain, but AIDS does.  To my understanding AIDS very much weakens your immune system, and drains you mentally and physically.  I can’t say if pain is involved because I don’t have it, but I suspect there is pain involved at some level.

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