Gambia: Expert Witness Says HIV Patients Branded Jammeh's Treatment As Bogus

15 October 2020

Dr. Assan Jaye, the TRRC's expert witness on HIV/AIDS treatment (alternative treatment programme) championed by former President Yahya Jammeh's, said HIV patients who joined the programme described it as bogus.

Jaye, who testified yesterday, became a scientist in 1998 with the MRC, having amassed vast knowledge in HIV treatment. He was the person in charge of HIV treatment at MRC.

He confirmed that according to research, HIV 1 came from Congo and 2 from the monkeys of Guinea Bissau.

The witness further stated that initially they confined their work to understand the HIV virus and the treatment started when the first drug was found. He added that the time they started using it, it was not effective.

"The second class of vaccine came in 2000 and the WHO said if we combine the two drugs we will have a delay replications. That was effective and it was the time the virus was declared as manageable like diabetes and hypertension. The vaccine reached the country around 2004 and it was free for patients."

He clarified that HIV and AIDS are different and one infected with HIV doesn't necessarily mean the person has AIDS.

It was important to give confidence and trust to patients, he said, adding that this was the reason why the patients created the Santa Yallah Group for HIV/AIDS patients to come together and help each other. He said that this helped lower their viral load and gave them high CD4 count.

Counsel Faal reminded him that in January 2007, former President Yahya Jammeh pronounced that he could cure HIV/AIDS and other diseases in three days.

However, the witness explained that his team thought it was a political statement but when they heard Jammeh was on the verge of conducting the programme, they were very worried and it led to the distraction of their programmes.

He said it was a lie from Jammeh to proclaim that he could treat HIV for three days, adding that to cure HIV in three days was not possible because it is a successful virus in the human body.

"If one proclaim to cure HIV, then we can say that person don't understand the virus. The only cure of HIV happens to one individual in Germany accidentally but such cure is not practical."

The witness indicated that during the call for Jammeh's treatment, they counselled patients and let them know that Jammeh said his concoction could not be taken with conventional medicines but they agreed, and later provided them counselling about consequences involved.

"Those who went to Jammeh's treatment and later came back to MRC treatment were restarted with conventional medicines and improving. Some of them said the treatment was bogus because they never saw improvement from the treatment."

He told the commission that they knew some patients died from Jammeh's alternative treatment.

He told the commission that Jammeh's claim brought some difficulties to them and at some point they closed the HIV treatment center at MRC, because they were running away from political crisis by contradicting the president's treatment.

"We engaged the Santa Yallah group to inform them of our closure but it always ends with sorrow because they used to cry and said we wanted to abandon and let them die."

As a result, Dr. Jaye fled to Senegal for six years working with Sheikh Anta Jobe University for a research on HIV.

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