Gambian President claims three day HIV/AIDS cure

Leading South African HIV/AIDS experts are shocked and dismayed by a claim by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh that he can cure AIDS in three days.

President Jammeh also says he can cure asthma and announced his remarkable skills to a gathering of foreign diplomats last month.

According to President Jammeh he has been treating 10 patients with secret medicinal herb ingredients since last month and some patients he claims have gained weight during the treatment.

His claims have been supported by his health minister Tamsir Mbow who says in trials so far patients have physically improved.

The herbal medicines are apparently taken orally and applied to the body.

Dr Mbow has not revealed which herbs are being used but has promised the "the whole world will know later on", but it is rumoured that Jammeh's treatment is based on seven herbs mentioned in the Koran.

HIV/AIDS specialist, Professor Coovadia, the head of the HIV research team at the University of KwaZulu Natal and a member of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, says he is astonished and shocked that a President can make such an announcement.

Professor Coovadia, says science is many years away from finding a cure and such statements announcing a cure are exceedingly difficult to accept.

Coovadia says the tragedy is that Gambia has a "political environment that allows a minister of health and a president to violate every foundation of science and public health."

He says Mr Jammeh's claims could lead to risky sexual behaviour, instead of following preventative advice.

The World Health Organisation has not as yet commented on the issue.

The incident is reminiscent of South Africa's health minister's statement last year when a diet of garlic and beetroot was promoted for those with HIV rather than the anti-retroviral drugs which are the only recognised treatment.

South Africa has since reversed its controversial advice.

A demand for Jammeh's alleged cure was prompted last month after the small west African country's state television service devoted most of its evening news to it.

The notoriously authoritarian and eccentric President has been re-elected three times in elections and though his rule has been called a stabilising factor in The Gambia, there is little freedom of speech in the press.

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