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Herbal Medicine Can’t Cure HIV

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In the quest to reduce harm, save lives or to quench a thirst of desperation, many are rethinking the treatment of HIV and AIDS seem to be buying into an unproven theory that herbal medicines could be or is the cure to the age-long disease.

To some, this may not be farfetched since treatment of diseases using traditional remedies is an age-old art which was only tossed backstage after the insurgence of western medicine.

It is for this reason that the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC) has pulled strings out of such speculations and has cautioned persons living with HIV (PLHIV) to adhere strictly to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).

According to the Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), Dr. Mokowa Blay Adu-Gyamfi “there is still no known cure or vaccine for HIV and AIDS in the country currently.”

Refuting claims of herbal cure for HIV, she told the PLHIV that; “If you think herbal medicines are good for you, have them as supplements like you take vitamins.”

“Please tell everybody who is living with the virus never to neglect taking the antiretroviral medication in addition to the therapy,” Dr Adu-Gyamfi reiterated while speaking at the Annual Strategic Planning Meeting of (GAC).

Take It Religiously And Live Long

Speaking with the PUBLISHER, Rev. John Azumah, a PLHIV and a Heart to Heart Ambassador of the GAC, said replacing the ART drugs with herbal would be detrimental.

“We have over the years seen where PLHIV abandoned their drugs for herbal medicines and prayer camps and they ended up in the grave…their systems deteriorated and when they decided to go back to the ART, it didn’t work,” he said.

Abandoning the ART and going back to it could cause the HIV virus to mutate even in the presence of ART drugs causing resistance, Rev Amuzu explained.

On whether the patient could take herbal medicine as a supplement to the ART drug, the HIV ambassador said it was not safe.

According to him, if both drugs are not properly administered, it could jeopardize the health of the patient.

“It is not advisable, the two don’t match and could have detrimental reaction and side effects. If you are taking both and there is an issue, the doctor would not know which drug is causing the reaction,” Rev Azumah said.

Herbal medications as a supplement?

Notwithstanding, Head of the Herbal Unit at the Tema Polyclinic and President of the Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists (GAMH), Dr. Samuel Osei Kwarteng, says it is possible to use herbal medicines as supplements to the ART drugs.

He was however quick to add that herbal supplements are not aimed at treating the disease but to treat some “opportunistic infections (OIs)”.

According to Dr. Kwarteng, these OIs are frequent and severe in individuals with weakened immune systems.

Some of these OIs are; meningitis, pneumonia, oesophageal candidiasis and Kaposi’s sarcoma― a sickening skin disorder.

He therefore advised that in seeking herbal supplements, PLHIV should be sure to get herbal medicines from the right sources.

“You give the drugs to people and they comeback reacting…this is where the professional comes in…any herbal medicine I give you, I should know the component and I should know if you would react to it when combined to your ART but the wayside herbalist doesn’t know this, so they give the drugs and people get complications,” Dr Kwarteng said.

He added: “At my facility, the same people who come for ART come to the herbal unit for supplements and we streamline our medicines to suit them and they don’t have any reactions.”

Herbal units can be found in some government hospitals in the country.

Pastors Add To the Bane

Rev Azumah in reiterating the importance of the ARTs urged PLHIV not to abandon their drugs spiritual intervention.

“Some pastors tell our clients to stop taking the ARTs and out of desperation they listen…they go buying holy water, holy anointing at the cost 10,000 and 8,000 when the ART is free.

“Antiretroviral have been tested and has been proven reliable. I am a clear example…you can pray and still take your drugs. I have been taking ART drugs for the past 18 years and I am healthy and strong,” the ambassador revealed.

HIV Prevalence increases

Meanwhile, the 2017 Ghana AIDS Commission report on HIV/AIDS infection shows an 18 per cent increase in new cases.

The report also indicates that the Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions topped the chart of HIV/AIDS prevalence.

By: Grace Ablewor Sogbey/ ksogbey@gmail.com

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