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UN rep expelled after comment on president’s AIDS cure

Street scene in downtown Banjul
(Nicholas Reader/IRIN)

The government of The Gambia gave the most senior United Nations official in the country 48 hours to leave the country starting Friday, following remarks she made criticising Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s widely-publicised cure for HIV/AIDS.

Dadzai Gwardzimba, UN Resident Coordinator in the capital Banjul, is due to travel to New York, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

President Jammeh announced he had a cure for AIDS in January. It is reportedly made from herbs and bananas.

He said he can eliminate the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from people living with the virus and heal people with AIDS in a matter of days.

Footage of the president applying his treatment has been widely broadcast on state-run television.

Doctors and journalists in The Gambia told IRIN/PlusNews they fear the consequences of openly criticising the president’s claim, which has not been independently verified.

But Gwardzimba spoke out last week telling IRIN, "To date, no cure for AIDS has been announced internationally."

She also said, "Once a person has been infected with HIV, he or she remains infected for life".

In her interview with IRIN/PlusNews, Gwardzimba said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN joint programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) was willing to facilitate an international team of experts to come to the Gambia and assess the effects of the president’s treatment.

The statement by UNDP issued on Friday from its headquarters in New York said it "fully supports the Resident Coordinator".

Other senior UN officials in The Gambia have also openly expressed doubts about whether the president has found a cure.

"As far as WHO is concerned there is no cure for HIV/AIDS," said Nestor Shivute, the WHO representative in The Gambia.

The president’s claim has been roundly denounced by AIDS activists around the world who are concerned that it could influence people with HIV to stop taking anti retroviral medicines. This would increase their resistance to the drugs if they start taking them again later, thus raising the prospect of many people dying.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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