WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s assertion that a herbal treatment had cured patients of the AIDS virus was not only wrong, but some of his supporting data was false, AIDS experts said on Tuesday.
A researcher in Senegal said Jammeh’s office had misused his lab in testing the blood of the ostensibly cured patients and said none of them had been cured.
Jammeh’s claims in February were widely derided by AIDS experts but got enough attention to worry the International AIDS Society, a group of 10,000 people who put together major global AIDS conferences and back research.
Jammeh treated 10 patients at his presidential palace. The AIDS society noted that all of them had been taking standard AIDS drugs.
“The initial 10 patients, who were responding very well to antiretrovirals (ARVs), were required to stop ARVs in order to receive the herbal treatment,” the group said.
“Blood samples from the patients were sent to Professor Souleymane Mboup of the University of Dakar, Senegal,” it added.
Tests on the samples were used by Jammeh to support his assertion about a cure.
Mboup, a member of the International AIDS Society, said he had been duped into analyzing the blood samples.
“The interpretation by the Gambian authorities of the results of HIV antibody and viral load testing on blood samples sent to my laboratory is incorrect,” Mboup said in a statement.
“In some samples viral load measures were below the level detectable by the tests,” Mboup added.
“This is not surprising, since these patients had been treated with ARVs prior to the administration of the herbal treatment. Effective antiretroviral therapy can reduce HIV viral load to below levels of detection.”
The human immune deficiency virus that causes AIDS infects close to 40 million people worldwide and has killed 25 million. By far the most victims live in Africa.
“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,” Mboup said.
South African President Thabo Mbeki created an international furor when he refused to accept that HIV causes AIDS and delayed treatment for millions in his country.