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Khomeini out, what next?

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th April 2006 03:00 AM

Another hope dashed- gone with the wind! Khomeini, the medicine we were told cures HIV/AIDS, is nothing but a piece of straw floating in the ocean of death. Now the waves of HIV are having the last laugh.

Another hope dashed- gone with the wind! Khomeini, the medicine we were told cures HIV/AIDS, is nothing but a piece of straw floating in the ocean of death. Now the waves of HIV are having the last laugh.

By Hilary Bainemigisha
Another hope dashed- gone with the wind! Khomeini, the medicine we were told cures HIV/AIDS, is nothing but a piece of straw floating in the ocean of death. Now the waves of HIV are having the last laugh.
Last Thursday, Primary Health Care state minister delivered the bad news. Dr Alex Kamugisha told Parliament that Khomeini I, II and III do not cure HIV/AIDS and those currently taking the treatment should abandon it and start or continue with antiretroviral therapy (ARVs).
Government also warned the public that those taking Khomeini products are doing so at their own risk and that the Institute of Elahi International Initiatives for Development and Education (IEIIDE), which has been dispensing the medicine as sh3m per dose, be stopped with immediate effect.
Professor Sheik Allagholi Elahi is the man behind this herbal medicine. According to Dr. Kamugisha, he has had more than 400 patients whom he would instruct to abandon ARVs.

Khomeini
Elahi, the Iranian professor of Social Sciences, Islamic Theology, Islamic Medicine and Philosophy, started the treatment of HIV/AIDS and TB with Khomeini I, II and III in 2000. Khomeini, named after the founder of modern Iran, who inspired the research in his country, was said to return bed-ridden patients to active life. Judith Nassanga, 50, from Bweyogerere said that when she was brought to Elahi in 2005, she was staring the grave in the face, after a long time on ARVs. “It was a complete U-turn”, she said.
The brother, who brought her there had heard about Khomeini late 2004 from a radio testimony by Amina Nasolo of Wankulukuku , who claimed she had been treated and had tested HIV negative in Rubaga, Mulago and Aids Information Centre tests.
“Khomeini expels the virus from the body”, Elahi said in an interview last year. But he refused to explain how claiming he had to protect his patent. He just said Khomeini is a powder, whose 99% of components come from Uganda and only a crucial 1% is imported from Iran. It is mixed with yoghurt before administering to the patient.
After registering it with the Uganda Herbalists and Cultural Organisation, Elahi based his work on Mawanda Road, Kamwokya. When news about it spread, patients increased in number and he had to shift to bigger premises on Plot 113, Katalima Road in Naguru.
In November 2005, the Ministry of Health set up a Task Force, comprising very experienced experts, to carry out scientific investigations on Khomeini.

The investigations
The 11 man team analysed the medicine samples at laboratories of the National Drug Authority (NDA), Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory (NCRL) at Wandegeya and at the Government Analytical Laboratory. According to the committee’s report, Khomeini contains varying proportions of honey, olive oil and solid residues of mineral and plant origin. Although experiments on animals showed it was safe, the committee said it fell short of potency required in an HIV drug. “The samples analysed did not have antibiotic, antiretroviral and antituberculous drugs currently in use in Uganda”, Kamugisha told Parliament.
The committee also reviewed 39 patients at Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC). 14 of these started taking Khomeini during the period of the investigations and 25 had already completed their treatment for up to one year ago. While some had actually gained weight, all the patients still had a significant viral load, meaning they still had HIV.

Reaction
The Ministry therefore declared Khomeini a false cure for HIV/AIDS.
But IEIIDE, which had called a press conference a week earlier to protest the basis used to evaluate Khomeini, said it was dissatisfied with the findings. According to Siraj Barinda, the Chief Executive Officer, the investigations were carried out like a classified security issue without involving them at all stages as they had promised. He said they had not received any official communication about the report findings. “I can’t comment without reading the report first. We shall continue treating patients until we are officially stopped. But from what I am told, the minister removed the good things about Khomeini from the statement to parliament in order to present a negative picture about our medicine”.
He said the good things the minister did not tell parliament were that Khomeini was not toxic and was beneficial to patients by improving their clinical symptoms and helping them gain weight and improve immunity.
In their earlier press conference, Elahi institute had threatened to expose the deficiencies of the probe team before an international forum.
But the Minister of Health, Jim Muhwezi said Elahi faces prosecution for selling food supplements as medicine to cure HIV. He said people who were defrauded were free to seek legal redress.

Way forward
Now Khomeini joins Mariandina by the late Prof. Sali, soil by Nanyonga and Kemron from Kenya on the list of false claims
Kamugisha said the Ministry of Health is ready to assist those researching for a cure through agencies such as NDA, Traditional and Modern Health Practitioners Together Against AIDS and other Diseases (THETA), Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory and the Uganda Herbalists and Culture Association. However, experts are asking for clear structures to be put in place. Members of Parliament also called for monitoring to be improved to protect desperate patients from unfair exploitation so that it doesn’t take six years and hundreds of patients for government to stop any trial.
HIV/AIDS activists say the value of food supplements for people living with HIV is immense.
Instead of totally throwing out Khomeini, some are proposing that government looks for that which helped prolong patients’ life and supplement ARVs which are still not wholly accessible.
Ends

Khomeini out, what next?

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