We in the skeptic community like to make fun of naturopaths and homeopaths and all the snake oil salesmen out there. While its a good ol laugh here in the West, if not nostalgic, the damage these charlatans can do in other parts of the world is not funny at all.

Long-time readers of SciBlogs might remember someone named Matthias Rath

In the battle of science versus woo…
The Dr. Will Sue You Now – A stolen chapter from Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science

Homeboy got rich taking advantage of desperate HIV/AIDS patients in Africa. Gave them some ‘magic potion’ of Vitamin C to cure HIV/AIDS HE TOTALLY DIDNT SAY IT WOULD CURE HIV/AIDS (except when he did). Men, women, children, he didnt care.

The Guardian described a case in which a pregnant woman newly diagnosed with HIV was visited at home by Rath Health Foundation employees and convinced to stop taking her antiretroviral medication in favor of Rath’s vitamins; she died 3 months later.

Yes, Gary Null taking megadoses of his stupid supplements and getting sick is funny. A pregnant woman dying from AIDS complications because some quack told her to take (supposedly, could have been water) Vitamin C? Not funny.

The good news is, it appears as if African officials are becoming more aware of quackery and are cracking down on their local charlatans. From a few days ago:

Uganda’s National Drug Authority recently arrested sales representatives of a company selling a drug that purports to cure HIV; the firm’s owners are not licensed to sell medicine and are being sought by the police.


The drug, known as Virol ZAPPER, was being sold in 37-milliliter liquid doses, each costing about US$210; patients were advised to take 10 drops daily. It was being advertised on local radio and TV stations as a miracle cure for HIV.

$210. $210. I couldnt afford that. Disgusting.

What I really like about that second link though is that the author put together a ‘trail of tears’ quacks have created in Africa over the years (including Rath). A few examples:

Uganda – In 2006, the Ugandan government banned the use of a popular anti-AIDS herb remedy known as “Khomeini” , after tests found it provided no cure. Iranian Sheikh Allagholi Elahi claimed the drug – which contained olive oil and honey and cost $1,650 per dose – could cure HIV/AIDS and TB in three weeks.

Gambia – In 2007, President Yahya Jammeh was roundly denounced by AIDS activists when he said he had found a cure for HIV/AIDS and began treating citizens. Shortly after his announcement, Jammeh expelled the most senior UN official in the country for questioning his “cure”.

Tanzania – In 2011, tens of thousands of people from all over East Africa flocked to the tiny village of Loliondo in Tanzania seeking a cure for several diseases, including diabetes, tuberculosis and HIV. Ambilikile Mwasapile, a former Lutheran pastor, was charging 500 Tanzanian shillings – about $0.33 – for a cup for his concoction.

Remember this the next time you are laughing at some rich, fundamentally healthy individual mindlessly repeating bullshit about homeopathy or herbal medicine or naturopathy or whatever. Disgusting.


  1. #1 Justicar
    January 24, 2012

    It’s even worse than Kabbalah water, which people send to various natural disaster areas.

    Makes me want to assemble an army of these to go after those fuckers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KjNH2_QDVs

  2. #2 windy
    January 25, 2012

    From the GantDaily article
    “Ubhejane, a dark brown liquid sold in old plastic milk bottles, had not undergone any clinical trials to test its efficacy.”

    What a surprise!

    Recently a guy tried to sell me some “ALVs” on the street. I hope that those were fakes and not someone’s actual medicine.

  3. #3 anarchic teapot
    January 25, 2012

    Glad to see Uganda taking steps against these charlatans. While it’s bad enough that their quack remedies can result in avoidable sickness, pain and death here in the rich world, the ravages they make in poorer countries are horrific.

    In Africa, these vampires often seem to sweep in before proper medicine can get established, much in the same way missionaries sneak in before proper schools can be organised and manned.

  4. #4 DrDuke
    January 26, 2012

    Meanwhile, here in the USA, Leonard Horowitz continues to manufacture and sell his Oxysilver as the cure for AIDS, cancer and almost everything else that ails anyone… Do a GOOGLE search for [Oxysilver] or [528 lovecode] to learn more.

  5. #5 Reversed Technologies
    January 27, 2012

    Isn’t your website named ERV? You lost me there with your political banter. You should know better than that especially working with and culturing HIV-1. As a good scientist you know that there are a hundred reasons why a person might die within 3 months in Africa. Or maybe not, but you know you are not the first or last person to have their head in the sands of “scientific bias” and point to obvious charlatans as an excuse for your lack of a cure too. Objectivity. None. I despise charlatans as much as anyone else, but Sheikh Allagholi Elahi, President Yahya Jammeh, and Ambilikile Mwasapile are not the same person as Matthias Rath. We can point out several discrepancies in your academic understanding of virology here, and a pop-blogger of HIV and ERV in the same breath might as well be someone writing on a bathroom wall. http://www.reducetheburden.org contradicts just about everything you have to say.

  6. #6 Ben
    January 29, 2012

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