…As FG orders investigation of claims
The Federal Government has mandated the National Institute for Medical Research and the College of Medicine, Ibadan to do proper study of two recent claims to HIV cure in Nigeria.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, disclosed this on Monday in Ilorin at the Federal Government Town Hall meeting for the North Central Zone
A Nigeria university don, Prof. Maduike Ezeibe, recently claimed to have found a cure for the virus.
An editorial in a Nigerian newspaper, had quoted the professor as saying that the drug, produced with “Aluminum Magnesium Silicate” was tested on ten persons living with HIV with a clinical outcome of an ability to “reach all cells” and making HIV “a conquered organism.”
The minister, who was responding to questions on the position of government on the claims, said getting a cure would be of public health interest to the country.
According to him, Nigeria has about three million people infected with HIV, the second highest number in the world after South Africa.
The minister, however, said that there were modalities recognised globally for disclosure of cure which must be followed.
However, two Federal Government agencies –National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had dismissed the claims by the Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State
But the minister of health, Prof Adewole said “What we need to do is to make sure that things are done properly.
“The process to undertake is the animal experiment to be sure it is efficacious and safe before moving to human.
“At the appointed time when we have the results, we shall come public,” he said.
Adewole said that the government was close to achieving the promise to make 10,000 Primary Health Care (PHC) service centres available to Nigerians.
He disclosed that the European Union was investing in 650 PHC centres and the British government was funding 950.
Meanwhile, ahead of the study of the claims by a university don to HIV cure, two agencies of the Federal Government–National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had dismissed the claims.
Director-General, NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and Chief Executive Officer NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a joint statement yesterday said there was no evidence from the publication that the authors obtained ethical clearance from an appropriate body in Nigeria to conduct this study, and only ambiguous evidence that informed consent was sought from the evidently vulnerable patients.
They said there is really no basis for a claim to cure of AIDS in this study and are concerned that the publicity given to this claims will stop patients with HIV from taking life-saving anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and give them false hope of a cure.
The statement noted: “It will be a great disservice to this vulnerable group of patients for the media to disseminate this claims in the absence of sound scientific evidence. There are long established, tried and tested routes for the discovery, development and validation of modern medicines before they can be registered and used for treatment in humans and animals.”
NACA and NCDC called on all academics to follow legal and scientifically acceptable methods in conducting their research and to avoid making premature claims capable of derailing the huge progress made in the last two decades on the war against HIV/AIDS.
The government agencies said millions of lives have been saved as a result of modern antiretroviral treatment and people living with HIV can now look forward to a normal healthy future.
They, however, said they will continue to support the hard and diligent work being done by scientists in Nigerian universities and research institutions around the country.
“We are always ready to partner with our scientists on all aspects of HIV research provided this is in line with international best practice,” they noted.
NACA and NCDC called on editors of media houses in Nigeria to seek comments from the leadership of relevant government parastatals and professional bodies when it receives new research findings related to their areas of responsibility.
“We assure you that we will respond rapidly and constructively to any queries.
“We also urge the editors of media houses in Nigeria to support their reporters to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in the clinical trial process.
“ In the run up to the next deadline, it is easy to fall into the trap of doing more harm than good, and the consequences of this can be deadly in the health sector. We will support the evolution of robust science journalism in Nigeria,” they noted.
They called on all patients living with HIV that are currently taking their medications to continue to do so and to see their doctors if they have any concern.
According to the statement, the NACA helpline (6222) is available on working days from 8am-8pm for the public seeking more information on HIV disease.