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March 16, 2007 2:55 PM   Subscribe

AIDS cured! with seven herbs and spices. Who knew? Sadly, its another example of anti-west superstitions, which isn't limited just to Africa.
posted by damn dirty ape (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Heh:

On January 18, he announced “by tradition and mandate” that he could cure HIV in three days and had
already done so for nine people. The world, he proclaimed, would soon become aware of his cure. The Gambian press was fulsome in its praise of the president who by “his efforts on behalf of Gambian health and his resourcefulness has discovered this wonderful cure”! This will not be a winner for HIV prevention.


From the travel diary I posted earlier today.
posted by The Straightener at 3:01 PM on March 16, 2007


The placebo effect is pretty powerful.
Who knows, it might even work for some people as long as nobody tells them they are drinking chicken breading.
Unfortunately, for most of these people, a placebo is about all they will ever get.
posted by Dillenger69 at 3:04 PM on March 16, 2007


Der Spiegel Online: The Quack in Gambia.

New York Times: Gambia’s President Claims to Cure AIDS.
posted by ericb at 3:06 PM on March 16, 2007


AIDS cured! with seven herbs and spices.

Do they throw in coleslaw?
posted by jonmc at 3:08 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


We don't need pharma! We need Colonel Sanders!
posted by sourwookie at 3:10 PM on March 16, 2007


While his claim of a "cure" is assuredly crap, it is not impossible that this concoction could produce good results - whether they are long term or not remains to be seen. My father-in-law is a doctor in South Africa, and because of a severe shortage of ARVs (or rather the economic capability to purchase them, in most cases), many doctors have begun giving patients a natural "medicine" that is a combination of plants and herbs from the area (essentially a super-vitamin-booster, among other things). It may not be a equal replacement, but for people without the money for ARVs it is amazingly effective at helping the immune system keep HIV in check without prescription medicines.

While people are obviously prone to hyperbole over things like this (AIDS IS CURED!), that doesn't rule out the possibility that it may be an effective treatment.
posted by chundo at 3:16 PM on March 16, 2007


And FWIW, until he started using this, my father-in-law is a doctor who has generally viewed any natural treatments as a pile of crap.
posted by chundo at 3:17 PM on March 16, 2007


Hmm. And as a doctor, your father-in-law no doubt suspended credulity until the appropriate double blind studies were performed.
posted by felix betachat at 3:20 PM on March 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


There was an article about this sort of thing in the New Yorker a couple weeks back.

It disgusts me that the president of a nation like South Africa can be so irresponsible as to claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2007


He made that announcement in front of a group of foreign diplomats, telling them the treatment was revealed to him by his ancestors in a dream.
Does this earn him a batshitinsane tag?
posted by sklero at 3:27 PM on March 16, 2007


(On second look, I see that this article is actually about Gambia, and not S. Africa. This is even worse then I thought - now there appear to be two African presidents who refuse to acknowledge medical and scientific facts about AIDS.)
posted by Afroblanco at 3:27 PM on March 16, 2007


KFC cures AIDS in Africans.

No idea what to say about that.
posted by LordSludge at 3:32 PM on March 16, 2007


felix:

Your comment has validity in a first world society. Where he currently serves, the choices are to experiment with new treatments, or just let AIDS run its course. I'm just relaying his observations.
posted by chundo at 3:33 PM on March 16, 2007


Well, at least this is a step up from the previous "miracle cure" that a lot of Africans believed: that if you (a male) had sex with a virgin it would cure you. That led to baby rapes, among other awful things.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2007


Afroblanco's New Yorker article:

The Denialists -- "The dangerous attacks on the consensus about H.I.V. and AIDS."
posted by ericb at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2007


The remarkable thing for me is not the article or the "treatment" but rather the well-written, well-argued comments posted, lacking the usual venom, surliness and snarkiness that some can find on--------well, some sites.
posted by Postroad at 3:48 PM on March 16, 2007


That's a fantastic article from Goldacre.
posted by Abiezer at 3:50 PM on March 16, 2007


This has to be better than the old AIDS cure standby, having unprotected sex with a virgin. Let me tell you, that does not work.
posted by mullingitover at 4:07 PM on March 16, 2007


It just makes me glad the US isn't presided over by some religious whackjob with no understanding of basic science.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, for most of these people, a placebo is about all they will ever get.

This is a salient point. Hope is a powerful motivator. If this herbal treatment prevents people from taking proven remedies, then it is obviously harmful. But if they have no access to proven remedies, perhaps the herbs can offer some measure of relief, be it purely psychological or not.
posted by owhydididoit at 4:38 PM on March 16, 2007


Of course, if the belief that this is a cure leads people to engage in risky behavior, that's obviously a bad thing, too.
posted by owhydididoit at 4:40 PM on March 16, 2007


Strikes me then that it's our responsibility not to leave them using placebos. About time we, in the West, invested in making sure they got proven treatments isn't it?
posted by edd at 4:59 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


AIDS cured! with seven herbs and spices.

Just imagine what you could do with eleven herbs and spices - Immortality (or at least Original Recipe). Didn't the Nation of Islam cure AIDS years ago? This kind of false hope quackery makes me both sad and angry.
posted by MikeMc at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2007




Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”
posted by ericb at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.

Un-fucking-believable. Someone, someone, help me figure out what my position on the topic is.
posted by ericb at 6:08 PM on March 16, 2007


John McCain 4 President 2008!!!!
posted by ericb at 6:09 PM on March 16, 2007


It's refreshing to see a candidate admit to ignorance on an issue and promise to look into it. It'd be nice if the opinions he ends up expressing were his own though.
posted by lekvar at 6:30 PM on March 16, 2007


Who can blame Africans for having anti-Western 'superstitions'? After all, if a guy came to my house and punched me in the face every day for a week, and then the next day wanted to come in and help me with my dishes and laundry, I doubt I'd welcome him.
posted by Sukiari at 6:41 PM on March 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


That kind of ignores the number of African nations where their homegrown leadership repeatedly has punched them in the face in the last few decades, though.
posted by mikeh at 9:57 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sklero: "Does this earn him a batshitinsane tag?"
Certainly in a modern-day Anglo-Saxon society where such experiences are considered completely invalid. Not at all in Gambia (and in a lot of cultures other than our own).

And there's the problem.

We have CNN:
Asked if he had any HIV symptoms, he responded, "No, I don't. As I stand before you I can honestly tell you I have ceased to have any HIV symptoms."

Patient after patient gave similar statements to CNN. But it was difficult to verify the authenticity of their testimony.
What is there to corroborate? The "authenticity" of their testimony? So the presumption is that these people who have reported a benefit are lying. And others addressing this strictly as "anti-western superstition."

I wouldn't be surprised if CNN's approach is not uncommon. (Though the UN's press release takes a reasonable approach -- that it needs to be scientifically examined -- I'm not entirely sure of the in-country political dynamic but I wouldn't be surprised if it's not great.)

Which (I'm pretty sure) is not a great way to entice people to allow you to examine their culturally based (potentially empirically beneficial) treatment.

Oh, and any word if it's actually "seven herbs and spices" or if that's just Jeff Koinange being sarcastic? An earlier version of this CNN article carries the headline "AIDS cure or sick joke by African president?"
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:01 PM on March 16, 2007


So the presumption is that these people who have reported a benefit are lying.

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.
Domestic criticism muted

Sarr is one of only a handful of prominent Gambians willing to publicly question the president's cure.

Since Jammeh came to power in 1993, human rights groups say that freedom of expression has been increasingly stifled in the tiny West African country, and criticisms of the president are rare.

Asked to give a medical evaluation of the cure, a Gambian doctor refused saying: "In the current political climate, I could lose my business." The doctor requested anonymity and refused to publicly or privately denounce the claim.
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/e0caed12bd195a8a3b7bc908206f189f.htm
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:14 PM on March 16, 2007


I don't think it ignores anything. I'm just pointing out that Africans have many reasons to be afraid and distrustful of whitey.
posted by Sukiari at 11:15 PM on March 16, 2007


Just to play Devil's Advocate here, I see everyone making the assumption that it doesn't work. What if it does?
posted by nightchrome at 11:17 PM on March 16, 2007


Damn Dirty Ape: that was not directed at you, but at the author of the CNN article.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:28 PM on March 16, 2007


Well, we have no reason to think that it does work, and the burden of proof is always on the person making the audacious claim.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:33 PM on March 16, 2007


I saw that crazy CNN headline.

So... McCain's not sure if condoms stop STD's.

Ignorance Outbreak or Sick Joke by US Presidential Candidate?
posted by bicyclefish at 11:54 PM on March 16, 2007


I see everyone making the assumption that it doesn't work. What if it does?

Then it's a scientific discovery the likes of which mankind has never seen before, on par with the discovery that Big Macs endow you with the ability to make monkeys fly out of your butt.

So, what's your point?
posted by frogan at 12:33 AM on March 17, 2007


You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception

Two thoughts...

A) McCain is attempting to be consistent, so he can ... ahem ... be consistent, and to avoid getting caught in a silly "gotcha" by a sharp reporter with access to Lexis/Nexis. So, he gets points for the effort.

B) On the other hand, McCain is a doddering fool. This isn't exactly minutiae here; we're not talking targeted tax policy for mid-sized Irish soybean farmers in rural Iowa. You'd think a guy that wants to be leader of the free world could at least spontaneously and coherently talk about AIDS policies.

Bad fighter pilot. No vote for you!
posted by frogan at 12:40 AM on March 17, 2007


I was in Tanzania a few years back, in the south, studying tree ecology with some Tanzanian botanists. Talking to them I discovered that it was a commonly held myth in rural areas that condoms actually cause AIDs, and their promotion & distribution is all a big conspiracy by white people. This depressed the hell out of me.
posted by algreer at 12:54 AM on March 17, 2007


Who can blame Africans for having anti-Western 'superstitions'?

I can certainly understand why there are anti-Western superstitions in Africa, but that's no reason to give them a free pass. Maybe Yahya Jammeh and Thabo Mbeki and those Nigerian anti-vaccinaters are indelibly scarred by the legacy of colonisation, and maybe there is some profound ethno-politico-sociological theory which perfectly explains why whitey is responsible for them spouting dangerous ignorant nonsense, but the fact is that they do spout dangerous ignorant nonsense, and must be stopped before even more people die from their fuckups.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:54 AM on March 17, 2007


1. The Gambia. Let's just get one thing clear, Jammeh is an illiterate thug who murdered his way into power by ousting a democratically elected leader and then silencing his co-conspirators.

His sanity has long been questioned and this is evidence that it is in freefall. He's turned one of the friendliest nations on Earth into a nest of mistrust, suspicion and fear. Seeing as he's aready ordered his police to open fire on unarmed schoolchildren and institutionalised corruption, many fear that this is a sign that he's becoming the Idi Amin of the West coast.

2. Tanzania. This condom plot is something spread by the Catholic church who do all they can to stop any programme involving condoms. I have, on many occasions, heard priests give sermons where they state that;
condoms have holes in them that the AIDS virus passes through
condoms have AIDS in them as a plot to destroy Africa and are used to spread AIDS


This I heard in an area where the local hospital records that 60%+ of people admitted and relatives asked to donate blood are HIV+.
posted by quarsan at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2007


I agree that it's tragic that the upshot of the anti-western attitudes that pervade much of Africa is paranoia of medicine. But I'm not sure that we have the right to say 'it must be stopped.' I think that Africans have the right to self-determination. It seems to me that we are getting awfully close to picking up the white man's burden when we say with finality that something must be stopped.
posted by Sukiari at 3:30 PM on March 17, 2007


Dillenger69: Unfortunately, for most of these people, a placebo is about all they will ever get.

Well, except for accurate advice on how not to catch it.

False cures are harmful because they dull people's caution. If they think there's a cure out there, or that there might be one soon, they'll be less cautious than if they thought it was incurable. Misinformation like this has to be fought so that the accurate information will be understood and acted upon - it's a completely avoidable disease, even in Africa.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:14 PM on March 17, 2007


McCain is a coward.
posted by pwedza at 9:09 PM on March 17, 2007


I have, on many occasions, heard priests give sermons where they state that;
condoms have holes in them that the AIDS virus passes through
condoms have AIDS in them as a plot to destroy Africa and are used to spread AIDS


That has to be the saddest, most horrible thing I've heard in a long time.
posted by lekvar at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2007


I agree that it's tragic that the upshot of the anti-western attitudes that pervade much of Africa is paranoia of medicine. But I'm not sure that we have the right to say 'it must be stopped.' I think that Africans have the right to self-determination.

Agreed. It is ultimately none of "our" business. I guess I meant: it must be stopped [by someone] [if AIDS is to be defeated].
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:52 AM on March 19, 2007


I'm not sure that we have the right to say 'it must be stopped.' I think that Africans have the right to self-determination.

I don't think we need to be so open-minded that our brains fall out. I don't think anyone here is rah-rah imperialism ... but when it comes to things like baby-raping and genital mutiliation ... you start to wonder exactly how a continent can be dragged into the 21st century...
posted by frogan at 8:11 PM on March 19, 2007


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