AIDS Cure Claims Under Fire Across Africa

News from South Africa:

An advertisement for a religious campaign has been ruled out of order for lack of evidence that Jesus can heal Aids.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made the ruling after receiving a complaint about a newspaper advertisement in March for a “Miracle Crusade with Reverend Angley”.

…The ASA said advertisers had to have documentary evidence to support all claims capable of “objective substantiation”. It noted that an element of faith could be involved when viewing advertisements such as this.

…”However, caution should be taken when referring to HIV and Aids, as an incorrect assumption based on religious faith could result in further infections,” it said.

The Reverend, of course, is the Ohio-based Ernest Angley, and his posters promising healing received international attention last year, when blogger IDLand‘s photo and commentary were picked up by BoingBoing. The same blog revisited the Rev just last month:

I was disappointed to see that miracle workers too are affected by age (wikipedia puts him at 86) – they become slow and rambling, old men remembering another time, slightly embarrassing and uncomfortable to be around.

…He talked for a good ten minutes about yodelling, and how he didn’t care for the sound. I’m not making this up.

…”There are people here who can give 100 rand, who wants to be blessed with a miracle tonight?” No hands. “There are a lot of people who can give 10 rand. Who’s going to give ten rand tonight? Who wants to be blessed tonight? Who’s going to give ten rand.” One or two hands. He went down to five rand. He went down to two rand (about 25 US cents).

…”I’m not going to point out anyone with AIDS, because I don’t want to embarrass them. But you know who you are. You are a man, you are 42 years old, you have had AIDS for 3 years. Your middle name is Andrew. When you last went to your doctor, you had lost 59 pounds. You are now healed of AIDS.”

The applause was polite but unconvincing.

Exorcisms follow, along with some irresponsible misinformation about how AIDS can be passed on:

It was painful to watch. I came expecting to feel anger at this charlatan spreading mistruths about AIDS, but the display was too pathetic for me to feel anything but sadness.

Meanwhile, similar claims about AIDS are coming under fire in Uganda, as the Kampala Monitor reports:

A WOMAN who offered her car to a local church as a sacrifice for “good health” has threatened to take her pastors to court for alleged extortion.

Ms Frances Adroa, a self-confessed Aids patient, says senior pastors at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a Kampala church which she joined in June 2005, obtained possession of her car by pretending that they would reverse her health status if she invested in sacrifice.

The paper includes quotes from her affidavit:

“I Frances Adroa …do solemnly declare that with the full knowledge of my distress and broken heartedness, the pastors launched the campaign of Mount Sinai to which all members were required to give sacrifices and write prayer requests to God, which they claimed would be taken to Mount Sinai,” the April 10 affidavit says.

“That to further coerce me to give, they showed us a documentary of their worldwide leadership on Mount Sinai…performing rituals similar to what they had promised us.”

(Mount Sinai keeps popping up in reports about African Christianity I’ve blogged on recently; see here and here) The church agreed to return the car to her when the cure did not materialize, but she allegedly received it in a damaged state and with a bill for “reconditioning”. The UCKG is a controversial Brazilian Pentecostal grouping which has been making inroads into Africa for some time; just a few days ago it opened its largest African branch, in Soweto.

And across the continent, the news from Gambia is not encouraging:

Since January, President Yahya Jammeh has been treating people with HIV in the compound of the presidential palace with his herbal rubs and drinks, which he claims are a cure. To the alarm of the International Aids Society, which represents doctors and others fighting HIV/Aids around the world, his patients have stopped taking antiretroviral drugs.

However, Souleymane Mboup, from the University of Dakar, believes that government claims about the supposed cure are misleading:

“The interpretation by the Gambian authorities of the results of HIV antibody and viral-load testing on blood samples sent to my laboratory is incorrect…Of those samples that were HIV-positive (66.66%), none could be described as cured.”

A report in the Banjul Daily Observer gives further details of the treatment:

Addressing the patients shortly before the start of his herbal treatment, the Gambian leader told the patients that there is no discrimination as far as his treatment is concerned. He said during the course of his treatment, patients must not smoke, steal or have sex, saying even the couples in the treatment are not exempted from these conditions.

He informed them that they will not take any food from outside, other than what will be given to them by him. He also told them that they will not take any Western medicine, except for what will be administered to them by himself. He also urged the patients to refrain from eating coffee, attaya, as well as chewing kola-nut and chewing gum.

…The President informed the patients that some of the patients in previous batch were cleared of HIV/Aids within the first-10 days, saying “there are different metabolic reactions to the treatment. It does not mean that those who did not recover quickly from the illness violated the rules. The longer the medicine stays in your body, the more effective it will become”.