Gambia's leader claims prayer, green paste can cure AIDS


AIDS BANJUL, Gambia -- From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia's president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste onto the ribcage of the patient -- a concoction he claims is a cure for AIDS.

He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

''Whatever you do, there are bound to be skeptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,'' President Yahya Jammeh told a reporter. ''Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It's a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will.''

No cures, says U.N. expert
In a continent suffering from the AIDS epidemic, Jammeh's claims of a cure are alarming public health workers already struggling against faith-healers dispensing herbal remedies. The biggest concern is that he requires patients to cease anti-retroviral drugs.

Since January, when he announced his cure, Jammeh has thrown his government behind the claim. Radio and TV addresses publicize the treatment and the Health Ministry has declared its support.

Although Gambia's HIV rate is relatively low compared to other African nations -- 1.3 percent of the country's 1.6 million people are infected -- Jammeh's claim puts international health groups in a bind.

Dr. Antonio Filipe Jr., head of the World Health Organization in neighboring Senegal tried to be diplomatic, but added: ''As the World Health Organization, we would like to state quite clearly the following -- No. 1: so far there is no cure for AIDS.''

source AP

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