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.