HIV activists have expressed alarm that the government of Gambia is encouraging people living with HIV to stop taking antiretroviral (ARV) medications in order to try an herbal remedy. The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), an organization of physicians, calls on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to cease his unproven claims that the treatment cures HIV.
Earlier this year, Jammeh began applying his treatment to a handful of patients who had stopped taking ARV drugs in order to qualify to receive the treatment, the group said.
HIVMA, along with the International AIDS Society and the Society for AIDS in Africa, said it is deeply concerned. "President Jammeh is giving people false hope, while at the same time making them stop treatment that has been demonstrated to save lives," HIVMA Chair Daniel Kuritzkes said.
"Any treatment that claims to alleviate this devastating disease must be subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny," he added. "A growing body of evidence from Africa shows the lifesaving effects of antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS. On the other hand, the remedy President Jammeh is promoting is untested."
“If President Jammeh's remedy is as effective as he claims, it will stand up to examination,” he said. “In the meantime, we urge patients receiving his unproven herbal remedy to resume taking their antiretroviral medications, which have a well-established track record of saving lives in Africa."