May 3, 2007 Leading HIV experts are alarmed that the government of The Gambia is encouraging citizens living with HIV to stop taking antiretroviral medications in order to try an unproven herbal remedy. The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) calls on President Yahya Jammeh to cease his unproven claims that the treatment "cures" AIDS.
Earlier this year, President Jammeh began applying his treatment to a handful of patients who had been doing well on antiretroviral therapy but stopped taking the drugs in order to qualify to receive his "cure."
HIVMA joins its colleagues in the International AIDS Society and the Society for AIDS in Africa in expressing great concern regarding this practice. "There currently is no cure for HIV/AIDS," said HIVMA Chair Daniel R. Kuritzkes, MD. "President Jammeh is giving people false hope, while at the same time making them stop treatment that has been demonstrated to save lives."
"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. It is highly unethical to stop a proven therapy to try an unproven one. We are extremely concerned that President Jammeh would recklessly experiment with his people's lives."
"We support the tireless efforts of African scientists, clinicians, and community health workers providing antiretroviral treatment to communities that are so deeply affected by this disease." Dr. Kuritzkes added. "We urge the government of the Gambia to support their efforts as well."
Dr. Kuritzkes concluded, "People around the world living with HIV/AIDS deserve safe, effective, and affordable treatment, regardless of the source. If President Jammeh's remedy is as effective as he claims, it will stand up to examination. 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."
HIVMA is the professional home for more than 3,600 physicians, scientists and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS. Nested within the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), HIVMA promotes quality in HIV care and advocates policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. IDSA is a professional society representing about 8,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases.
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