Statement on the Gambian Government's Unproven Claim of a Cure for AIDS
April 24, 2007
Geneva, Switzerland -- As the world's leading association of HIV professionals, the International AIDS Society's (IAS) more than 10,000 members are working at all levels of the global response to HIV/AIDS. Our members represent scientists, clinicians, and public health and community leaders on the frontlines of the epidemic in 171 countries worldwide.
As the principal convener of the International AIDS Conference and the upcoming HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention Conference, the IAS is firmly committed to an evidence-based response to the epidemic, based on sound science. It is therefore with great concern that we note recent developments related to HIV treatment in the Gambia.
This concern is echoed by the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), an independent association of HIV professionals in Africa, and the custodian of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), the biannual regional AIDS conference in Africa.
Earlier this year, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced that he had found a cure for AIDS. He began treating HIV-positive patients with a herbal treatment at the Presidential Palace, with the support of the Department of State for Health and Social Welfare. The initial ten patients, who were responding very well to antiretrovirals (ARVs), were required to stop ARVs in order to receive the herbal treatment. Blood samples from the patients were sent to Professor Souleymane Mboup of the University of Dakar, Senegal, who is the former Regional Representative for Africa on the IAS Governing Council, a member of the Executive Committee of the Society for AIDS in Africa, and the Chair of the next ICASA, to be held in December 2008. A public statement issued by the Office of the Gambian President on 12 February 2007 indicates that tests conducted by Professor Mboup showed undetectable levels of HIV in the samples submitted to him.
In response, Professor Mboup has issued the following statement:
"There is no known cure for AIDS. Under no circumstances may the tests conducted in my laboratory be used as proof of an alleged cure for HIV. For the results to be used in this way, tests must be conducted before, during and after treatment. International rules regulate the conducting of trials in order to prove therapeutic efficacy."
IAS President Dr. Pedro Cahn, President of Fundación Huésped in Argentina, added:
The IAS urges its worldwide membership to hold their governments to account for unproven claims of AIDS cures. We advise health care workers and policy makers throughout the world to continue to implement ARV treatment programmes for all who need them, and to clarify the proven dangers of stopping ARVs, including the risk of disease progression and the development of drug resistance.
In closing, SAA President Dr. Femi Soyinka emphasized the continued need to work towards universal access to HIV treatment:
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