My treatment is for the sake of humanity:- Says President Jammeh, as he resumes HIV/AIDS treatment
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The president of the Republic has reiterated that the treatment he kick-started five years
ago is for the salvation of humanity and not for anything else, thus expressing
his unwavering commitment to the cause. He underscored that the treatment that
started on January 17th 2007 is something that they are doing not to amass
wealth, fame, or popularity, but for the sake of humanity as dictated by
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, was
speaking late Tuesday evening at State House in Banjul where he began the
treatment of the seventh batch of the HIV/AIDS patients. The seventh batch, numbering 74 patients,has been described as the largest
HIV/AIDS treatment group by the Gambian leader, and it is coming hard on the
heels of successive treatment in other components of the President’s
Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP) such as infertility.
This latest batch includes 53 females, 21 males and five children. As expected, it also includes patients from other countries in the sub-region such as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone, amongst others. In this treatment, 31 patients have both HIV 1 and 2, 34 have HIV 1, whilst 9 have HIV 2.
Speaking in an interview with the State House press corps during the thick of the treatment, the Gambian leader reiterated that the initiative started out of concern for human sufferings given the trauma and stigma attached to a person suffering from HIV/AIDS. The Medical Myth Buster as fondly called for his treatment said he is duty bound to alleviate the problems faced by the people affected by the disease as he has prayed to the Almighty Allah to show him the medication to do so. “When I see people suffering from HIV/AIDS, I feel bad about it. So this is a very difficult medication,” he stated.
Commenting on the long interval between the sixth and seventh batch of the treatment, the Gambian leader explained that this was due to the fact that the facility that PATP used for treatment at the Serrekunda General Hospital in Kanifing was operationalised by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, thus putting them in a situation they had to find a new location where patients can be accommodated and treated.
He said: “The fact of the matter is that this is not a
treatment they give to people to go to their homes because there are certain
things that they are not supposed to do. So when they come to the centre and
take the medicine and go home, people will bring all sorts of things that they
are not supposed to take and the temptation will be there for them to take it,
which makes treatment very difficult.
Also, we don’t want to mix the medicine
with anything other than the food that we cook here because this is Africa and
somebody might give something to the patients that might turn fatal. So, that
is why we are very careful. So it was a combination of factors but the reason
for this long interval is because there was an accommodation problem.”
Confirming that this is the largest batch of HIV/AIDS patients to be treated by him so far, the Gambian leader asserted that it is his wish to take more than this but noted that due to the existing facilities available, they can take only this number. He added that his treatment can take up to a 1000 people at any given time if they have the facility to accommodate them.
The Gambian leader also indicated that after more than five years into this treatment, they have improved on the quality of the medicine, saying that they have during the course, discovered more effective medicines that take shorter period for the treatment.
He explains: “Before HIV 1 and 2 we take the same length of time for treatment. But now if somebody has HIV 2, I laugh when I look at the diagnoses because it takes only less than one week to really get rid of the virus. So the weakest virus as far as I am concerned is HIV 2 and I will be more concerned with somebody who has cerebral malaria than somebody who has HIV 2. When we started treatment we treated people with CD4 counts of four.
The increased demand
Asked the extent of their commitment to meet the higher demand for the treatment given the interest people continue to show for it within and outside the country, the Gambian leader was quite positive, expressing their resolve to treat anybody. He however hastened to cite accommodation, as well as getting the medication as deterring factors for a large-scale treatment.
He further explains: “Today 99 percent of the medication is
available here locally and in Senegal. We are committed to treating anybody
irrespective of whether you are an African or non-African. What is clear is
that I am doing this for humanity and as a Muslim and in fact any human being
who believes in God, you are not supposed to be a racist or discriminatory. So
whether you are a Gambian or wherever you come from, or you are from space, if
you come here for treatment, we will give you the same level of care that we
give to Gambians because at the end of the day we are all human beings.
We are not doing it for money, for fame, popularity but for the sake of humanity as dictated by Allah for us to work for humanity. You mentioned the countries that come for the treatment, we have treated people up to Malawi, Southern Africa, Saudi Arabia, everywhere and we don’t ask for a butut. All we need is for you to comply with our rules – that is you stay and we give you the medication until when we test and see that your viral load is no longer detectable by the machine. What my treatment does is to remove the virus.”
Also speaking to the State House press corps in an interview at the site, the director general of the PATP, Dr Tamsir Mbowe, said that the rules and regulations have been set, which have been explained to the patients before the commencement of the official treatment. Asked when the patients will be discharged, he said: “The patients are officially discharged normally after we get confirmation from the laboratories that we sent the samples and those that are undetectable are normally discharged from the treatment.”
DG Mbowe, who has seen the challenges and progress of the treatment since its commencement five years ago, harped on the progress of the initiative, noting that there has been improvement on the different types of medication used in the process depending on their conditions. He noted that participation of patients of other countries outside of The Gambia is something that is not new to the treatment in view of the fact that such has been the case since January 2007 when it started.
“I think one could see the effectiveness of the treatment in the number of patients reporting. Globally HIV/AIDS has dropped, but the number of patients coming to the President’s Alternative Clinic for registration is going up and that means more patients are having confidence in the treatment,” he concluded.
Author: Hatab Fadera