By Associate Editor Muhammed Jawara


This is a question many people are asking all over the world. There is no definite answer to it as of now. That makes it all the more important a topic to discuss.

     The jury is still out as to whether the whole issue is a hoax or a genuine breakthrough in the cure for AIDS that people are otherwise reluctant to accept. Since Yahya Jammeh’s claim to have a cure for AIDS became a news that baffled a whole nation, and then the world, many people have come out with opinions to either support the claim or discredit it. I found it hard to take sides, thinking that within a month or so, the truth shall be known to all. However, the opposite is the case.

    Its over a month since Gambian newspapers were filled with news that president Yahya Jammeh is the man to cure AIDs. Contrary to what i thought would be the case, the truth is yet to be known. That has led to arguements, media wars, contradictions, mudslingings and now deportation of a UN diplomat. Knowing all these as i do now, it seems we have just seen the begining of what may become one of the stories of the century- a breakthrough or a scandalous hoax about HIV/AIDS. For now, its prudent to remain on the fence or take the middle ground until all facts about this issue are known.

   I watched the report by Jeff Koinage of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Friday night. Although the report was inconclusive as to whether the alledge breakthrough is true or not, Mr Koinage raised few points that are worth exploring.

    To start with, the report stated that it was related to CNN that some patients who were HIV positives in the past are now showing no sign of the disease. In addition, these patients were shown to Mr. Koinage and his CNN crew, interviewed for a spell, and admitted that they are feeling better now than they used to be just few weeks ago. Another point Mr. Koinage raise, in his own words, is that these patient do not appear to be , “coached or coaxed.” More important than that, the authorities in the Gambia who the CNN claimed invited them, refused to avail themselves at the disposal of the reporters. Yet, they did not prevent Mr. Tamsir Mbowe from talking to CNN, in which he confidently stated that the cure is “working effectively and efficiently.” What an objective report by Mr. Koinage! I will come back to that in a moment.

    Gambians have known Yahya Jammeh as a dreamer in the past for wrong reasons. During an interview with the GRTS, he was quoted as saying that no opposition candidate would ever rule the Gambia in the next hundred years. He prophesised that none of his descendants would ever be poor again. He told journalist that he can wipe Guinea Bissau from the world map, and claimed that the Gambia is one of the most powerful countries in the world. These are more of dreams than factual. His recent dream that gives him the license to cure AIDS is not a dream that can be ignored. That is why the world is watching him with vigilance and expectations. Some are worried that if this turns out to be a bogus claim it may harm the progress in the drive to get rid of AIDS once and forever. That is a valid point!

     Back to the CNN report. If what Mr. Koinage and CNN reported is true, that these patient look physically healthy, then maybe the least Jammeh can claim is that he has a temporary cure for AIDS. Unfortunately though, that is far from the issue at hand. And, in the case where these patients were never AIDS patients at the first place, then what political capital is Yahya Jammeh trying to gain from annoucing that he has made a breakthrough? Western sympathy for his fledging democracy? I dont think so, for a false claim like this can only create more harm than good for any leader.

     Similarly, Mr. Koinage’s assertion that the patient do not seem to have been “coached or coaed”, assuming that they are patients in fact, goes to tell us that they maybe the begining of a positive future for people who might have been hitherto unlucky to find cure for this fatal disease. At the heart of this point is that these patient should have two files availalbe; one stating that they were AIDS infected before being spoon-fed with the Yahya Jammeh liquid medication, and another file showing the results of their AIDS tests after using the medication. Besides, an independent person must verify the results of the two files, comparing and contrasting them, before giving the results to the media. Unfortuantely however, that has not been the case so far. That leaves us with only one option; wait and see!

    This whole issue may turn out to be a farce or fallacy. It may also turn out to be true, as pointed out by Mr. Tamsir Mbowe, who put his integrity on the line. I tend to beleive that this could be a defining moment in the Gambian history for the lessons to learn are two folded. One its either Yahya Jammeh is right, if proven so or he is utterly insane. God forbit. I hope the former is true.

   A lot of people argue that he has no medical background to make such a claim. They also argue that he cannot depend on traditional medicine to cure AIDS. I found these views very narrow-minded and stupid. The question to those people is that; can’t a person discover a cure for a disease without a medical background? Is traditional medicine inferior to western medicine all over the world? I don’t think so.

    In Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, tradiational medics have contributed immensely to the progress of society. There are a lot of people is Asia, including mainland China, Hong kong, Japan, India and the Koreas who do not beleive in western medication up to date. They still insist on using traditional medicines to cure complicated diseases, having total disdain for western medications. These people either by default or design are some of the most healthy people in the world. In sub-saharan Africa as well, traditionist have always come with solutions to complex diseases. This is no coincidence, for traditional medicine preceeded western medicine. In that regard, dismissing Yahya Jammeh’s claim on the basis that he has no medical background or traditional medicine cannot cure AIDS is irresponsible.

     All said and done, there is little evidence available to make this issue rationally debatable. That leaves people like me with only one option; remain sceptic, holding onto to hope that maybe this would be the breakthrough the whole world has been waiting for so long. If, and only if, that happens to be the case, then the man most Gambians see as a monsterous leader could be the greatest asset of out time.

In the meantime, i remain hopeful.

Posted on Monday, March 19, 2007 (Archive on Thursday, March 29, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

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