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.