Kenyans Warned Against Hoax HIV Cures

Reports in Kenya’s Coast Province claim of a modus operandi involving hoax herbalists selling concoctions purported to treat HIV, even persuading patients to abandon their treatment on life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs.

Representatives in the country’s National AIDS Control Council in Coast Province said that people were told the herbal concoctions contained special ingredients that would "boost their immune system to the point of even curing the disease." This is despite the government provides antiretroviral drugs to HIV patients free of charge.

The scheme is that the patient is offered with a free sample of the concoction, even claiming that the seller was once infected by HIV but have since recovered after using the concoction. The "herbalist" would even convince the buyer to abandon their ARV treatment. Once he is convinced into buying the so-called cure for HIV, it would be too late for him to realize that it costs way expensive. Doctors have warned against skipping antiretroviral treatments to prevent the HIV to become drug-resistant.

However, stigma made it difficult for authorities to capture the culprits. Officials say there is little possibility for an infected person to come out openly, while those using the concoction appear to have made up their minds about its ability to cure. A HIV+ mother of four appears happy about her decision, claiming that the concoction is "sweet and easy to swallow" and has even made her fatter. She paid an equivalent of US$75 for the drug, an amount she can ill afford.

The Kenyan government is developing an action plan to regulate the use of traditional medicine and incorporate it in the treatment of major illnesses like malaria and HIV. However, a vast majority of traditional practitioners are unregulated. An estimated 80 percent of Kenyans use traditional healers either exclusively or in conjunction with Western medicine.

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