JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Africa Check – a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media – has exposed a number of fake drugs which cannot cure AIDS.
The revelation comes as many desperate Africans are hoodwinked into believing that some herbal medicines such as Angel Zapper, Garani MW1, Topvein, SF 2000 and many others are AIDS cures.
In an article titled “A roundup of fake AIDS ‘cures’: Angel Zapper, Garani MW1, Topvein, SF 2000, Africa Check says fake AIDS ‘cures’ have long been the bane of activists fighting for access to treatment.
Researched by Vinayak Bhardwaj, the article says despite attempts to debunk myths about such herbal concoctions, claims of “cures” continue to make the rounds.
“Some of these claims are no more than dietary suggestions and may appear quite harmless. Others are bolder – and more dangerous,” reads the article in part.
Africa Check on its website recently highlighted some of the fake cures.
Fake cure #1: Angel Zapper
In Johannesburg, a website sells a small box-like device with two buttons and a strap attached to it called an “Angel Zapper” for R495. On the site, a “Dr Bob Beck” claims that “when the HIV virus is exposed to a small current (100 microamps) it lost the ability to infect white blood cells”.
Africa Check called the number listed on the website to ask how the treatment works. The person who answered said that in addition to using the Zapper, you also have to go on a “strict diet”.
The man, who refused to give his name, said that “although the Angel Zapper treatment does not cure HIV it makes the symptoms much less”. He advised people not to stop antiretroviral therapy and to supplement their diet with “good electrolytes”. When pressed for more information, he replied that “nobody knows how this works”.
That is because it simply cannot work, Professor Ed Rybicki, a professor of microbiology at the University of Cape Town Biopharming Research Unit, who has extensively studied HIV, explained to Africa Check.
He said that the electrical current would not have any effect on the HIV DNA that integrates with the sick person’s DNA and from which it gets re-activated to cause infection.
Fake cure #2: Garani MW1
The first claims about Garani MW1’s “curing” powers surfaced in 2013. It was touted as a “wonder herb” by a Malawian health department employee who claimed that it could completely cure HIV. She told The Nation newspaper that an HIV patient had been told about the herb in a dream.
Garani MW1 is supposed to increase the body’s white blood cell (CD4) count as a way of targeting the virus and reducing its effect on the body. But this has never been scientifically tested.
Garani MW1 put up another Facebook page in 2014 where it advertised new packaging, calling it the “HIV and AIDS herb”. In one post, a user called Saidi Zuze asks for evidence that the herb actually works.
The people in charge of the page answered: “Saidi, what kind of testimony do you want? Written or what? Coz you have heard testimonies.”
But Saidi wasn’t giving up. “It’s only one,” he wrote.
When it comes to “medicine” that could mean the difference between life and death Saidi is right to ask questions. Taking people’s word for it just isn’t enough.
Fake cure #3: Topvein
Topvein, a herbal “cure” for HIV/AIDS, originates from Zambia. But the claim that it can cure HIV is misleading.
As we explained in a previous report, the key ingredient of the remedy was tested on only 11 participants, the first-person claims of being cured could not be backed up and the manufacturer’s own claim that the product is “not a medicine or a pharmaceutical product” made it unclear why anyone should take Topvein in the first place.
Fake cure #4: Sondashi Formula 2000
Africa Check looked into Zambian lawyer and former presidential candidate Ludwig Sondashi’s mix of four indigenous plants, called the Sondashi Formula 2000, last year. It had shown promising early results when tested in a South African laboratory.
The next step on the long road to prove that SF 2000 can indeed kill HIV is to start an observation trial. But when Africa Check spoke to Owen Mugemezulu, permanent secretary at the ministry of higher education’s research department this week, he said it was unlikely that funds for that will be released this year.
Sondashi however claims to have “over a hundred” clients on his books. He told Africa Check they are all doing well, with more than 20 now “completely cured”. He refused to disclose further details but promised Africa Check to ask his patients whether they are prepared to go public.
Besides the above alleged cures, others have also emerged recently and desperate people living with HIV are flocking to outlets where such cures are sold turning people behind the herbal concoctions into instant millionaires.
The sad part of it is that while most of those who make such herbal drugs become financially healthy quickly, the physical health of their victims deteriorates with time.
Amongst people living with HIV and AIDS, the best weapon they can use to remain health is through the taking of antiretroviral medications.
World Health Organisation (WHO) explains that the strategic use of antiretroviral HIV medications can significantly reduce the transmission of the virus.
A senior WHO official Dr Margaret Chan explains: “We now have evidence that the same medicines we use to save lives and keep people healthy can also stop people from transmitting the virus and reduce the chance they will pass it to another person.”
In 2011, a large multi-country study by the HIV Prevention Trials Network showed that antiretrovirals cut transmission of HIV by 96% within couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not infected.
A later study in South Africa reinforced these findings.
“When people take antiretrovirals, the amount of HIV in their body is decreased, making them much less likely to pass the virus to others,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV Department at WHO. “If we can get, and keep, more people on treatment, and reduce their virus levels, we can reduce the number of new people who are infected.”
For anyone who is living with HIV, ARVs and good nutrition are the best answers instead of rushing for fake drugs or the so-called miracle cures.