Junkfood Science: When potions can cost lives

October 13, 2008

When potions can cost lives

Victims of AIDS in Africa endure tremendous suffering, compounded by poverty, starvation and limited access to medical care. They have also been victimized by remedies that offer false hope while turning them away from medical care that could extend their lives.

Without enough food, their bodies are susceptible to the ravages of other infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, which infects up to 70 percent of HIV-positive Africans, according to the United Nation’s World Food Programme. Even the effectiveness of drug treatments and the body’s tolerance of them are hindered by not having adequate food. Food is a fundamental part of treating AIDS, but so is good medical care.

Modern medical practitioners, however, are in desperately short supply, with as few as one doctor for every 50,000 people in Mozambique, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN AIDS 2008 report estimates that 22 million adults and children in Sub-Saharan Africa, alone, are living with HIV/AIDS, 59% are women. Yet fewer than 100,000 Africans are receiving antiretroviral treatment. Last year, 1.5 million people died. In the most affected countries, more than one-third of the deaths among children under five were due to HIV/AIDS. And Africa has 11.6 million children left orphaned when both parents or their caregivers died of AIDS.

With food, doctors and medicines so desperately needed, the scientific medical community has been fighting its own battle, trying to get them to the people who need them.

While antiretroviral drugs are critically needed, according to professor Nicoli Nattrass, director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, there has been a long-standing history of resistance to antiretroviral medicine by President Mbeki and his Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in South Africa. AIDS dissidents/denialists who believe that HIV is a harmless virus and that AIDS symptoms are caused by antiretroviral drugs and malnutrition gained followings both in the United States and Africa, he said. The Health Minister herself had even gone so far as to portray antiretrovirals as poison, he said, and “promote[d] nutritional alternatives like lemons, garlic and olive oil to treat HIV infection.”

Due to high level administrative support of AIDS denialists, he said, “a lucrative nutritional supplement industry” is now thriving, which has had “the tacit, and sometimes active, support of the [Health Minister’s] administration.” Not only has it increased the stature of AIDS denialists in the United States, he said, it has also eroded the acceptance and authority of scientific regulation of medicine in South Africa. Legislation, requiring all medicines to be tested by the Medical Research Council, has been side-stepped, he wrote, and legislation freeing alternative/traditional modalities from the government’s requirement of scientific testing had even been introduced by the Health Minister. Professor Nattrass has chronicled the history of antiretroviral therapy and its implications, and authored Mortal Combat: AIDS Denialism and the Struggle for Antiretrovirals in South Africa. As he said: “Once science is discarded as the best yard-stick of efficacy, patients are at the mercy of charlatans selling unproven substances.”

One of the most visible and publicized examples has been the Dr. Rath Health Foundation, a vitamin and dietary supplement manufacturer whose advertisements told South Africans they were being poisoned by AZT and that AIDS could be cured naturally with vitamins. On March 9, 2005, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) ordered Dr. Rath and the Dr. Rath Foundation Africa to stop the advertisements. [The complaints, claims and the full ASASA report is here]. He didn’t. The South African Medical Association and the Treatment Action Campaign made a formal complaint to the Health Minister to act and she refused, resulting in them seeking a legal order this March to compel the Minister of health to take action to stop Dr. Rath’s illegal clinical trials and unfounded claims.

“This support for quackery endangers public health, harms the HIV/AIDS treatment programme and undermines the scientific governance of medicine,” said the AIDS and Society Research Unit. As you’ll note, Dr. Rath’s website and advertisements remain up today.

One of the most heartbreaking and troubling illustrations of how alternative modalities appeal to the most desperate, appeared in a Nigerian publication today. It profiled Paul Ojeih, a natural medicine practitioner who believes he can cure AIDS. The reporter wrote:

…For the last 30 years that he has been practising alternative medicine, Ojeih has been waging a lone battle over what he terms, "ignorance of the every day medical doctor in the hospitals." He is a teacher and speaker, a good one at that. He is also brilliant. He runs Iris Medical Foundation, a registered group with a hospital, pharmaceutical company, up to date medical laboratory and a natural medicine university… "We have achieved something in our fight, we now have a body, all thanks should go to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua," he said…Ojeih is happy with the president because of the recent creation of Complementary Alternative Medicine Council (CAMC)…

Perhaps for good reason, conventional medicine authorities have reasons to be apprehensive of Ojeih. For a start, Ojeih teaches that there is no virus called the Human Immune Deficiency Virus (HIV). But you can come down with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Ojeih says. This has been his claim since 1986. Even more controversial, he claims to have a medical regimen that cures AIDS! Now this is what most medical authorities, both national and international do not want to hear.

AIDS is said to be the terminal state of people who are infected with HIV. Health authorities, both in the country and elsewhere fear that it has no known cure, except by the use of anti-retrovirals which helps people living with HIV manage their condition. But Ojeih scoffs at this. "HIV is a western policy, aimed at thinning out Africa," he says… He lives in a world of his own. But those who need him seek him out, and believe it or not, they come in droves.

At his Iris Medical Foundation website, Ojeih says he is a professor of Human Science with a Ph.D. of Comparative Medicine, a doctorate in Reflex Sciences and Natural Medicine, a diploma in Electro-acupuncture, and a diploma in Apitherapy. He has formulated 37 herbal remedies which he describes as: “All excellent products that have brought smiles back on the faces of those condemned much earlier to death, and who have been tutored to learn to live with their helpless health conditions.” He says his mixtures are indicated for:

infections (“all forms of microorganisms or germs”); cough, chest and throat congestion; muscle and nerve tonic; male infertility; obesity; uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, cancer, goiter and tumors; internal cleansing; brain disorders, amnesia, Alzheimer disease, headaches, poor memory, convulsions, narcolepsy; arthritis, general body pain, osteomylitis; malaria, typhoid, fevers; diabetes; suppressed immune system; hypertension, insomnia; hemorrhoids; diphtheria, tonsillitis, Parkinson disease, asthma, cramps, lock jaw, voice tonic, pyorrhea, rabies; wounds, ulcers; sickle cell anemia, leukemia, general anemia; tumors, cancers; internal bleeding, blood in stool, bleeding guns [sic], all forms of hemorrhage; weight gain; male impotence, paralysis; diarrhea, cholera; low sperm count; old age rejuvenation; hypertension, heart disease; skin diseases of all kinds; waist pains, back pains and rheumatic pains; nausea and vomiting; ulcers; skin care; female infertility; liver disease and cirrhosis; autism; and loss of appetite.

One only has to read this list to recognize the life-threatening risks for people who turn to these unproven alternatives rather than receive traditional medical care. He doesn’t just prescribe one mixture for each disease, but for most he recommends handfuls of his different tonics, pills and potions. AIDS patients, for example, are prescribed “venedi elixir, venedi capsule, pauwal tincture, supra-x tonic, lisamos capsules, derby tonic, and ab bitters.” Malaria victims are prescribed “lisamos capsules, ab bitters, and venedi capsules.” Women with breast or cervical cancer are prescribed “lily capsules, lily elixir, fibroma capsules, jane capsules, lily paste, venedi elixir, derby tonic, and ab biters.” Syphilis is cured with “venedi elixir, venedi capsules, pauwal tincture, lisaquine capsules, derby tonic, ab bitters, arthro – p, okobi tone cream (rashes).” For patients with tuberculosis, he prescribes “sanicof syrup, venedi elixir, ab bitters, spasma tincture, derby tonic, obm capsule (bleeding).” Liver disease and liver cancer patients are given “ab bitters, venedi elixir, lily elixir, diakechi elixir, jane capsules, venedi capsules, derby tonic, sanicof syrup (detoxification process).” And so on.

According to Iris Medical Foundation, its special food products as well as these natural drugs are:

formulated, compounded and scientifically researched into by the famous Comparative Medical Practitioner, Prof. Paul Olisa Ojeih (Nature’s Gift to mankind); A specialist Consultant on Degenerative and Malignant Diseases who over the past thirty- five years of Medical Practice, has been doggedly committed to providing mankind with the finest, safest, holistic biological remedies that have been scientifically researched and deemed safe for human consumption.

Even market survey research of the products by reputable researchers and consultants attests to the wonderful curative results of the drugs... The drugs offer solutions to varieties of health problems, that have defied solution from conventional drugs or therapies. Iris Drugs are primed to changing the face of medicine in the entire world. The world is yet to see such drugs anywhere.

Ojeih says he works to restore hope and “immaculate health to those condemned much earlier to a lifetime of pain, misery, drug dependence and premature death.”

Anyone who believes herbal modalities are harmless, need only think of these patients.

Changes afoot?

This week, Reuters reported that South Africa’s new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, under its new Administration, had vowed to step up the fight of HIV/AIDS which had languished under her predecessor, who had advocated beetroot and garlic. Since Mbeki became President in 1999, his administration has been lambasted by the scientific community. Ms Hogan was quoted in the Guardian as pledging to “get things right,” after years of AIDS denialism by the former President and blunders by the former Health Minister. “It is critically important that those who need treatment are able to get it…We will as a matter of urgency examine all the gaps in delivery.”

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