Source: The Citizen
Friday, 06 May 2011 23:12
By Bernard James
Dar es Salaam. The US has urged patients using complementary or alternative medicine in Tanzania to remain on current medical treatment plans prescribed by their medical specialists to avoid what could be “complex health problems once treatment is abandoned”.
The US said in a statement it issued through it embassy in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that it was siding with recommendations by the government that patients should continue following their current medical treatment plan to avoid anticipated drug resistance against diseases.
The advice comes amid mounting concern that thousands of Tanzanians have abandoned hospital treatment and flocked to Samunge Village in Loliondo, where the Reverend Ambilikile Mwasapila has been dispensing a herbal medicine claimed to cure ailments such as Aids, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and cancer.
The US government’s statement has complemented voices by health experts, who fear an impending health crisis if patients continue to abandon treatment prescribed by medical doctors in favour of unproven alternative medicine.
“The US government recommends that Tanzanians using complementary and alternative medicines should closely adhere to treatment plans and medications prescribed by their medical practitioners in order to avoid anticipated drug resistance against these diseases,” read part of the statement.
“Through the leadership and hard work of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Tanzania has made notable progress in improving the health of its citizens, especially in preventing and treating HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and other chronic diseases. In addition, it is recommended that individuals should continue to practice preventive health behaviours to protect themselves and their families.”
Since the Rev Mwasapila declared that God had directed him through a dream to use the mugariga tree to cure people of chronic diseases, there have been conflicting statements on the efficacy of the treatment.
There have been contradicting testimonies by people who have used the treatment that has attracted thousands of people from neighboring Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
While others claim to have been cured of diabetes and even Aids, dozens are said to have died after abandoning treatment for the herbal medication.
Medical experts, speaking in a recent meeting to disseminate health sector HIV/Aids communication strategy in Dar es Salaam, said the government’s continued silence on the efficacy of the “wonder cure” would in the future have serious repercussions on the health sector. Among those who raised concern was Dr Benet Fimbo, a consultant with the Health and Social Welfare ministry, who urged the government to openly state whether or not the Rev Mwasapila’s concotion has curative properties.
Dr Fimbo, a former head of information and communications with the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), warned that the government’s silence was promoting misleading information about the herbal medicine.
There have been reports of people living with HIV/Aids who have stopped taking anti-retrovirals after taking the Rev Mwasapila’s medicine.
Experts are warning that resuming taking the HIV/Aids upon realising that the Samunge dose was not effective was likely to lead to drug resistance.
Another worrying development is the recent proliferation of herbalists and faith healers claiming to treat chronic diseases.Last month, while releasing the findings of tests on the herb by the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) and the government chemist, Health minister Hadji Mponda said the herbal drink was not hamrful to humans.
Meanwhile, the battle for the control of revenue collected from vehicles and helicopters ferrying patients to Samunge took a new twist yesterday after local residents chased away tax collectors from the village council and temporarily took control of the local airstrip.