Alternative medicine: HIV’s “scare crow” in Ghana
The Ghana AIDS Commission aims at eradicating AIDS by the year 2030.
What this means is that people will be living with HIV but would have received viral suppression to the extent that, they would not be infecting others with it.
To achieve this, the ambitious Agenda 90-90-90 was adopted.
The 90-90-90 means
The 90-90-90 is a strategy to ensure that by the year 2020, 90% of people living with HIV should be aware of their HIV infection.
90% of all people living with HIV should be receiving anti-retroviral drugs.
Lastly, 90% of people on anti-retroviral drugs should receive viral suppression.
The suppression should be such that, they wouldn’t be able to infect others with the virus.
The agenda has several challenges, including logistics, human resource and funding.
For the ambition agenda to succeed, people should be testing, knowing their status and those who are reactive, referred to the appropriate health facilities for confirmation and treatment.
The one single threat to the agenda which this piece intends to mention is that of claims by practitioners of alternative medicine to a cure for HIV.
Speaking to a doctor at the Koforidua Regional Hospital on the Human Immuno-deficiency virus, he didn’t miss word telling what makes the virus a difficult one to deal with.
“The virus changes its form and nature, that is why years ago, when the Anti retroviral drugs were introduced, the set of medicines you are given on your visit today, will not be the same as those you would be given when you visit the centre next week”
He went on, “in other words, we confuse the virus, because if you continue to take the same drug, it would get to a time when the virus would identify the drug and then change its nature and form to become immune to it”
This was how he could explain to me in simple grammar.
The ARTs so far have worked to perfection and according to Golda Asante “is a miracle from God”
Unfortunately when people are infected with the virus, the fact that the virus still exists in their blood is hard enough to bare, this causes some infected persons to abandon their ARTs in search for an absolute cure.
This is the point where most people fall into the hands of herbalists, prophets and mallams who promise a cure.
Unfortunately, many of these claims are supposed to be from the “spirit world”
Scientific proof into their efficacy is thus an impossibility.
Latest among the tall list of people who have made such claims is 37 year old ………… who claims to have been given the cure in the spirit.
A concoction made from coconut roots and …………….according to the “Mallam” is said to have the efficacy to cure HIV.
Worthy of note that, many of these Spiritual Practitioners have little or no idea as to what HIV is.
In the summary of findings put together by the Eastern Region Social Accountability and Monitoring Committee (SAMC) 2917 Report, Page 8 it came out, most of the prayer camps and healing centres visited during the work, “had never received formal training training on HIV and had no basic knowledge on HIV and AIDS, and TB. Some described the difference between HIV and AIDS, and the mode of transmission as:
“HIV is physical, AIDS is spiritual”
“HIV and AIDS are the same”
On mode of transmission
Some said, “AIDS is acquired from anger and dirty surroundings”
“HIV is spiritually acquired through dreams; when you eat in a dream”
“You can get HIV through dirty environment, bad water, and eating with someone who has HIV”
“HIV and AIDS are spiritual sickness”
Worse among the challenges that the Commission has to encounter are the claims of haven cured people.
In the work of the SAMC, some respondents, made the follow claims.
“I have treated a lot of people with HIV”
“The cure was given to me through a dream and I have healed three people”
“I have treated people who have been rejected from the hospital…I pray for some days and give you medicines including honey, within 30days you will be cured”
“HIV is curable. God has been directing me with Deuteromy 28:47 to cure people, I have cured 20 people”
“I combine ten (10) herbs to cure HIV”
Since these claims can not be verified in any way, the Commission has the hurdle of closely monitoring these camps and practitioners to ensure that the number people who are “lost to treatment” are reduced to the barest minimum and if possible zero.
Alternative medicine: The claims
For now, many will claim to have a cure to HIV.
And the Commission will have the challenge of finding them out and ensuring that the populace have indept knowledge of HIV in order not to fall into the hands of these practitioners.
Up till the time when these “spiritual practitioners” have a type of license before they begin operations, they will no doubt remain the scare crow to the achievement of the ambitious agenda 90-90-90
If the agenda is to be achieved, people who are infected are encouraged to be on their ARTs.
For now, it is the surest way to live a healthy normal life even with HIV.