NIGERIA HIV/AIDS NEWS
Another look at African roots and herbs
March 1, 2006 :: Kingsley Obom-Egbulem Nigeria-AIDS.org
Medical researchers have begun investigating a range of traditional cures for the answers to the AIDS pandemic and other diseases plaguing sub-Saharan Africa.
This was part of the outcome of a seminar held at the University of Cape Town on the role of traditional medicines and herbal remedies in infectious disease control.
The seminar focused on the rapid spread of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Despite consistent relegation to the fringes, traditional healers on the continent have been vocal on the need to give them a prominent place in any plan by Africans to address the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS pandemic. Many of them believe the answer to HIV/AIDS in Africa lies in an African-oriented response, which to them is in traditional medicine.
No doubt, science seems to be slow in providing a lasting solution to HIV/AIDS globally. Perhaps, this current attention paid to traditional may just be part of efforts aimed at broadening the search for a panacea to the pandemic.
Caregivers at Living Hope Care, a support group and AIDS clinic in Ekiti State, South West Nigeria incorporate herbs in the treatment of opportunistic infections. With the assistance of Professor Tony Ejuoba a professor of pharmacology at the Obafemi University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Living Hope Care conducts regular research into herbs for the preparation of inexpensive and practical alternative medicines, which has been able to improve the health and life of hundreds of patients otherwise unable to afford western pharmaceuticals.
Dorothy Onyango, head of the treatment advocacy group Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK), said that people living with HIV have found some traditional medicine treatments to be safe and effective.
"So far, the most effective treatment we have for herpeszoster is an herbal remedy and it is far better than Valtrex (an orthodox brand name drug) with no complications or side effects. It is cheaper at $1 as against Valtrex which is $100 with all its complications", she Dorothy at a session on traditional medicine at the 13th ICASA held in Nairobi in 2003.
Dr. Muazzam Jacobs of the University of Cape Town (UCT) immunology department said several South African universities were working with American academic institutions to study traditional medicines as a source of possible vaccine.
Dr. Siyabulela Ntulela of the Dept of Science and Technology at UCT said many Africans have always relied on traditional medicine. He added that 25-30 percent of all drugs in clinical use originated from natural products.
About R50 million was said to have been spent on researching traditional medicines in South African in 2004.
Of 22,000 plant species in South Africa 4,000 were used of their medicinal properties. Research had established 27 plant species were used in the treatment of TB across the country.
I believe South Africa has a very good advantage in such a huge diversity of plants something was happening in the past before all these modern medicines. We need to ask ourselves what that was ", said Ntulela.
Two herbal products Metrafaids, produced by PROMETRA and Thaibo, developed by Dr. Li Chuan of the Oriental Chinese Clinic ý are a few of the scientifically tested responses which seem to have showcased the potentials of traditional medicine in HIV/AIDS treatment and management.
Dr. Erick Gbodossou, a Western-trained medical doctor and president of PROMETRA shared results of clinical trials conducted in 2000 and 2001 to determine the efficacy of Metrafaids at the 13th ICASA in Nairobi in 2003.
62 and 45 PLWHAS were placed on fixed dosages of Metrafaids for 6 and 18 months respectively. "We had to certify they had high viral load as well as very low CD4 count. We also made sure none of the patients had been on ARVs and their diets were monitored during the period", said Gbodossou.
"At the end of the 6th month, we recorded significant weight gain, drop in viral load, and increase CD4 count in over two-thirds of the clients". The trials were funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, New York, USA.
Until now, these results have not really fascinated scientists and orthodox medical practitioners who form the cream of global players in the search for effective treatment for HIV/AIDS. However, with this recent searchlight on traditional medicine by researchers in Africa, perhaps the world may just be close to a new phase of hope in the search for a panacea for HIV/AIDS.
Additional report: Cape Argus