This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Uniben Disowns Professor Over Claim On Cure for HIV/Aids

Photo: IRIN
Les nouveaux fonds vont permettre à des pays de se rapprocher de leurs objectifs en matière de prévention et de traitement du VIH

The absence of a certified cure for HIV/AIDS has continued to give rise to many claims and counter claims by those who purport to have found a therapy that will heal those with the disease.

On Tuesday, it was the turn of Prof. Isaiah Ibeh, the Dean of School of Basic Medical Sciences of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Benin-City, who claimed to have found a cure for the dreaded disease.

But just before the ululation that greeted the "great discovery" could die down, UNIBEN authorities that should be celebrating the "breakthrough" of one of their own, has come out to swiftly disown the don's discovery.

Ibeh had announced the breakthrough in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), in Benin-City, capital of Edo State.

Ibeh had said in the interview that, "We are at threshold of making history in the sense that we seem to have with us something that will permanently take care of what overtime seems to have defied all solutions.

"We are talking about the latest discovery of an oral drug made from plant extraction in Nigeria for the possible cure of the pandemic, HIV and AIDS virus."

But in his reaction to questions from journalists in his office, the Provost, College of Medical Sciences of the University, Prof. Vincent Iyawe, said the university could not vouch for the claims of Ibeh for now, because the institution was not "carried along" in the research.

He said the school would like to take credit for the breakthrough, but that it could not align with the "breakthrough" because according to him, "the college was not consulted, the university was not consulted, he (Ibeh) did not carry anybody along".

It is not quite certain why Iyawe seems to have distanced the school authority from the claims of Ibeh. Is it because the latter failed to carry along the school, or he believes the drug lacks the potency to cure HIV/AIDS as Ibeh is claiming?

But the provost explained that, "There are protocols and procedures. Going from stage to stage, we need to give it (the drug) clinical trials, which will involve taking it to the Federal Ministry of Health to undertake a clinical trial and many other things are also involved. We will equally have to take it to NAFDAC, and many other stages have to be passed before you come out with your claim; in fact, we even need to take it to the World Health Organisation".

According to Iyawe, all the university was doing was to protect Ibeh and the integrity of UNIBEN. On his next line of action about the invention, he said: "I will naturally maintain a studied silence."

Thirteen years ago, the country was agog with a similar claim from the Kogi-born Dr Jeremiah Abalaka, the proprietor and Chief Medical Director of Medicrest Specialist (private) Hospital in Gwagwalada, within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) .

Abalaka had claimed to have produced a vaccine that was both preventive and even curative of HIV/AIDS. His claim had caused a row in the medical sector. He claimed to be seeing about 90 patients everyday in his hospital, and that they were all buying the vaccine. His claim was further authenticated by the testimony of army authorities, which said soldiers who had just returned from peacekeeping in Liberia, and were infected with HIV/AIDS had been treated and cured of their infections using the Abalaka vaccine. Even the Pharmacy Institute of Nigeria confirmed the vaccine as a valid cure for HIV/AIDS.

But the Nigerian Academy of Science as well as the Federal Ministry of Health demanded the content of the vaccine, insisting that unless they scientifically confirmed the properties of the vaccine, the government would not endorse it.

But Abalaka did not seem to have a clinical proof of his claim. He did not see the sense in insisting on clinical proofs, because according to him, as soon as the vaccine can cure the disease it is meant to cure, there should be little question of how the cure was achieved. He chided the health ministry and his colleagues who were insisting that he must submit his vaccine to stringent scientific scrutiny and procedure.

He likened his 'vaccine' to Coca-Cola: "People who drink Coca-Cola, they are not interested in what it is made up of but whether it will cure their thirst or not."

And that set him on a collision course with the medical authorities.

Before him were some other claimants within and outside Nigeria. In 1990, a Kenyan immunologist, Dr Koech, had made similar claims, which could not be clinically verified.

!n 1997, the South African Health Minister, Dr. Nkosonana Dlamini-Zuma, had announced a similar breakthrough in the discovery of a vaccine called Virodene, as a cure for AIDS.

But it was to be found later that not only did the researcher bypass all research protocols and controls at the university, the so-called vaccine was found to be even harmful to human beings. It was such a huge embarrassment to the then President Thambo Mbeki, who had publicly endorsed the vaccine.

In the same way, renowned Zairean immunologist and head of the Medical Research Centre of the University of Kinshasa, Professor Lurhuma Ziriwabagabo, in November 1987, had made one of the earliest claims of finding a cure for AIDS. That was just about a year after HIV/AIDS was reported in Nigeria.

Ziriwabagabo had announced that he had cured many HIV-infected persons with a newly-discovered drug. The drug, which according to him had shown close to 60 per cent efficacy, cost about $10 per treatment of an infected person. The drug was named MM1, after late Zairean President Mobutu Sese-Seko and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. But not long after, MM1 was found to be anything but a cure for HIV/AIDS.

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InFocus

Nigeria Dismisses HIV/Aids Cure Claim

The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control has labelled a medical professor's claim of inventing a cure for the treatment of HIV/Aids as bogus. Read more »