February 23, 2007 / 11:47 AM / 13 years ago

Gambia expels UN official for AIDS "cure" criticism

BANJUL, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Gambia has ordered the expulsion of the top U.N. official in the country after she criticised assertions by President Yahya Jammeh that he was curing AIDS patients with herbs, government sources said on Friday.

Fadzai Gwaradzimba, a Zimbabwean national who is the resident coordinator of U.N. operations in the tiny West African state, was given 48 hours to leave the country, the sources, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

Gwaradzimba’s office in Gambia declined to comment.

Jammeh, a former wrestler and army officer who has ruled the predominantly Islamic country since seizing power in a 1994 coup, says he has found a natural herbal cure for patients infected with HIV/AIDS. The Gambian president has been giving regular treatment sessions at a local hospital in which, carrying a Koran and prayer beads, he rubs patients’ bodies with herb pastes and also gives them herbal potions.

The sessions, widely broadcast by Gambian state media, have been reported by international media, which have quoted world health experts as casting doubt on Jammeh’s claim to be able to cure AIDS.

In a report on Jammeh’s treatment sessions earlier this week, Britain’s Sky News quoted Gwaradzimba as saying that claims of cures for AIDS could encourage sufferers of the disease to engage in risky behaviour and make the AIDS problem in Africa worse.

Jammeh has dismissed the scepticism and insists the cure works.




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