Responding to the emergence of a claimed new cure for AIDS in the Gambia, the main United Nations agencies dealing with the pandemic today issued a call for ‘evidence-based’ responses to the disease.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) “strongly encourage the Gambia to collaborate with international experts on efforts to assess the safety, efficacy and quality of the therapeutic intervention, according to standard practices in any product development.”
The statement reiterated the importance of evidence-based approaches to AIDS treatment as part of a comprehensive response to the epidemic, and emphasized that no cure for AIDS exists. “Once a person has been infected with HIV, he or she remains infected for life.”
It further warned against substituting untested remedies for proven treatments. “Herbal remedies cannot take the place of comprehensive treatment and care for people living with HIV (including prophylaxis and treatment for opportunistic infections, and highly active antiretroviral therapy where indicated),” UNAIDS and WHO said. “These treatments should not be stopped in favour of any such remedy.”
They cautioned that discontinuing antiretroviral therapy “will lead to very serious adverse effects, and even death.”
UNAIDS and WHO are promoting the use of combination antiretroviral therapy, which can both prolong life and improve quality of life. With increased resources and global commitment to scale up access to antiretroviral treatment, coverage increased in sub-Saharan Africa from less than 2 per cent in 2003 to 23 per cent in June 2006. “These gains must be sustained,” the agencies said.