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08.09.2005 Health

Officials debunk HIV cure claims

GNA
Officials debunk HIV cure claims

Accra, Sept. 8, GNA - Top officials leading the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country on Thursday rejected claims that a goat serum tested in Ghana offered hope for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWA) in the country.

The officials, led by Prof. Fred Sai, Government Advisor on HIV/AIDS, said no conclusive clinical tests had been conducted on the product.

They said a recent media report about the virtues of serum was false and amounted to deceiving the Ghanaian population. The officials were reacting to a story carried in the September 6, edition of the Daily Graphic headlined: "Hope For HIV/AIDS Persons - New serum tested here proves effective."

"We are nowhere near beginning to hope... we are nowhere near turning the product into a drug," Prof Sai told a packed press conference in Accra.

The Daily Graphic had reported that the goat serum could suppress and neutralise the HIV-2 strains in goats.

However, authorities at the Noguchi Memorial and Medical Institute, (NMIMR) said that tests conducted at the institute showed that the product could react on HIV-2 strain in goats, but the test were still preliminary.

Prof. Sai said although Ghana had reputable institutions and scientists, the promoters of the goat serum had refused to allow the product to go through "rigorous scientific testing."

He said it was important to test the drug for both its effectiveness and toxicity level because preliminary tests had only been conducted on a goat and not on humans.

"Don't' let us get eggs on our faces....don't let the world ask don't they have scientists in their country?"

"The goat serum being touted by the Graphic has not passed any of these tests, which could take years," Prof Sai added.

Presenting a background to the goat serum report, Prof. Sai said a group, led by a Bishop from the United States, met with President J.A Kufuor over the goat serum last year.

He said the President then referred the group to him, (Prof. Sai) for assessment of the claim that the serum could be used for treating the PLWHAs.

"It turned out that the group was trying to get registration and facilities for manufacture, distribution and use locally and possible export of the serum, developed by Dr. Gary Davis. Meeting with Dr. Davis and other members of the group made me rather uneasy," the Government Advisor added.

"Even their own papers revealed that the serum had not been submitted to rigorous scientific tests in the USA or anywhere else for that matter."

"Dr. Davis and his group were to contact the Noguchi Memorial Institute and conduct all experiments needed in collaboration with them. They were told that they were not to make any claims to the press of the serum being a cure or that it had been approved by any Ghanaian institution until such approval had actually been given," Prof Sai said. Prof. David Ofori-Adjei, Director of the NMIMR said the bulk of Ghana's HIV/AIDS cases were those of HIV-1 strains accounting for some 95 per cent of cases, with HIV-2 being found in only five per cent of people living with the virus in the country.

He said it was therefore, wrong to suggest that the goat serum held some hope for all people living with the virus when majority of the cases in Ghana were those with HIV-1 strains.

"No toxicity test of any kind has been done... we are nowhere near human trials," Prof. Ofori-Adjei said.

Prof Awuku Sakyi Amoa, Director-General of the Ghana AIDS Commission, said since the publication in the Daily Graphic, he had been bombarded with calls from the media for reactions and the Commission therefore, needed to come up with its position on the matter.

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