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UNAIDS, WHO Call for "Evidence-Based" Responses to HIV/AIDS Following Gambian President's Claims of Cure

March 20, 2007

UNAIDS and the World Health Organization on Friday in a joint statement called for an "evidence-based" response to HIV/AIDS following Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's claim that he can cure the disease with an herbal remedy, United Press International reports (United Press International, 3/16). Jammeh since January has claimed that he can cure HIV/AIDS with a treatment that involves application of a green paste, as well as application of a gray-colored solution splashed on people's skin and drinking a yellowish tea-like liquid. Jammeh said people taking the treatment should refrain from drinking alcohol, tea and coffee; eating kola nuts; and having sex. Public health workers' biggest concern 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, WHO regional adviser in Senegal. Jammeh in February ordered United Nations representative Fadzai Gwaradzimba to leave the country after she questioned his claim. In addition, Gambian authorities in February fired two journalists at a newspaper in the country because Jammeh did not approve of their reports on his treatment. The journalists were given back their jobs after about four days (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/27).

UNAIDS and WHO in the statement emphasized that no cure for AIDS exists and reiterated the importance of evidence-based approaches to HIV/AIDS treatments as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic, UN News Service reports. "Herbal remedies cannot take the place of comprehensive treatment and care for people living with HIV," the statement said, adding, "These treatments should not be stopped in favor of any such remedy." The agencies also called on Gambia to "collaborate with international experts on efforts to assess the safety, efficacy and quality of the therapeutic intervention, according to standard practices in any product development," the statement said. In addition, UNAIDS and WHO cautioned against discontinuing antiretroviral therapy, which "will lead to very serious adverse effects and even death." UNAIDS and WHO are promoting the use of combination antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to antiretrovirals has increased from less than 2% in 2003 to 23% in June 2006, UN News Service reports. "These gains must be sustained," the statement said (UN News Service, 3/16).

Online The statement is available online.

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