Fake HIV/AIDS cures persist around the world

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Gambia President Yahya Jammeh has claimed that he can effectively cure HIV/AIDS with an herbal concoction. An October 9 Global Times article reported that Jammeh pronounced 68 people cured using the remedy. The World Health Organization and the United Nations have deemed his claim particularly dangerous because it requires HIV/AIDS patients to stop using antiretroviral drugs.

Jammeh’s concoction is just one in a long line of quack AIDS remedies—unproven, unscientific “cures” for AIDS. Despite the vast advancement in medical research and treatment of the disease, the promotion of these fake remedies, often supported by heads of state, continues to threaten the lives of HIV/AIDS patients. Here’s a short list of fake cures for AIDS:

1. In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly announced Iran’s herbal alternative to AIDS treatment. He claimed that the cure, called IMOD (immuno-modulator drug), was made exclusively from seven native herbs and was developed by a Russian scientist at the Iranian Research Center for HIV/AIDS. The drug’s website, ImodAids.com, claims that the drug should be the "first choice" treatment in resource-constrained developing countries. What’s more, Ahmadinejad has also discouraged HIV/AIDS patients from using western medicine, asserting that the West has encouraged the spread of HIV/AIDS to enfeeble developing countries. "The major powers and despots are behind the development of these diseases so they could then sell their drugs and medical equipment to the poor countries," he announced in January, according to the Telegraph

2. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki encouraged the use of homemade mixtures, such as a concoction of garlic, olive oil, beetroot, and lemon, on HIV/AIDS patients. In the late 1990s, Mbeki also developed a drug called Virodene, which was rejected by the scientific community. Also interesting: the Mbeki government held shares in Virodene’s manufacturing company and received 6 percent of the company’s profit.

3. As of May, 2011, at least 63 albinos had been killed for “black magic purposes,” according to Reuters. Reuters also reported several cases of albino girls being raped due to the belief that sexual relations with albino girls will cure AIDS.

4. Last year the Philippines Department of Health warned citizens not to use medicine derived from geckos as a remedy for AIDS and for other illnesses. “The folkloric practice of using geckos (or "tuko") as cure for AIDS and asthma persists to this day and is of serious concern,” the department said in a statement, according to NPR.

5. Sheik Allahgholi Elahi, an Iranian professor, set up a clinic in Uganda to sell his supposed AIDS cure. The professor charged more than $1,500 for the treatment before the Ugandan Ministry of Health observed that the his claims were false. The drug was nationally banned in 2006. 

6. In 2001, a Thailand clinic began distributing the V-1 pill, which contains antigens said to cure AIDS. Demand for the small pink pill skyrocketed when the inventor of the “cure,” Vichai Jirathitikal, claimed that it eliminated HIV in two of his patients. The Thai Ministry of Public Health conducted a study of Jirathitikal’s patients, finding that the pill had no effects on the body’s immune system, white blood cell count, or the amount of virus in the patients’ systems. Jirathitikal’s manufacturing license was revoked in 2003, but he continued to promote a new drug through his company, Immuraboost.  

More from GlobalPost: AIDS: A Turning Point

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