The Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria, NEPWHAN, in Gombe State, said on Thursday that four of its members had died as a result of supposedly utilising herbal HIV medication.
Muhammad Ibrahim, the association's Programme Officer, revealed this in Gombe during an event commemorating World AIDS Day 2023.
Ibrahim expressed worry about the recent surge in the usage of herbal medicine for HIV treatment in the state.
He emphasised the need for the government and stakeholders controlling the spread of alternative HIV therapies.
According to Ibrahim, many HIV-positive patients who are desperate for a cure are turning to herbal medicines. He went on to say that many people have died as a result of taking the wrong drug.
“A lot of our members are subscribing and using herbal medicine. It is based on the information being spread by the hawkers of traditional medicine. These hawkers are everywhere in Gombe."
“These people are openly advertising and claiming that they have discovered the treatment of HIV. As a result, a lot of our people are buying the medicine."
“There is no scientific proof that the herbal treatments are real. So we want the government to look into this and do the needful."
“Anybody that claims to have found treatment for HIV should be identified and invited by the government to verify his claims. And then certify it before public sales and use,” Ibrahim said.
Dr Habu Dahiru, Commissioner for Health, also spoke, saying there was no scientific proof that plants could heal the condition.
Dahiru recommended NEPWHAN members and other HIV-positive people to avoid utilising herbal medications to cure the condition. He went on to say that such combinations are harmful to essential organs.
“We do not have any scientific evidence that herbal medicines are working. But anti-retroviral drugs are working and when we do the viral load test, you see it reducing. It is scientific."
“Herbal medicines have side effects, especially damage to the liver and kidney."
“We have always discouraged the use of a remedy that has not been certified. To use a drug or herb in treating a certain illness it has to undergo various stages of test and certification before approval."
“We have not heard of any herb that has been certified for HIV treatment,” he said.
In addition, Dahiru stated that the state has made significant progress in lowering the illness burden.
Furthermore, he stated that the state tested and medicated 95% of suspected patients. He went on to say that 95% of individuals who were put on medication had viral suppression.
“This is a good feat for the state,” he said. He added that the state would maintain the feat, boost testing and encourage the use of ART among positive persons.
Recall that World AIDS Day is commemorated on December 1, and the theme for this year is “Let communities lead”.