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Opinions of Saturday, 8 September 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Traditional, Orthodox and HIV/AIDS Increases

Ever since the first 42 cases of HIV/AIDS was documented in Ghana in 1986, the cure, public education and coordination of the pandemic has been played more or less around the template of neo-liberal Ghana, without corresponding input from traditional Ghana. The sense is that while orthodox medicine has been in the forefront of finding cure for the deadly disease, traditional medicine has not been accorded the same mileage, thus damping any attempts by traditional medicine to contribute meaningfully and respectfully to the cure of HIV/AIDS.

This situation is not surprising. Neo-liberal Ghana not only looks down on traditional Ghana, for obvious historical reasons, but in a deadly disease like HIV/AIDS, has not incorporated the traditional as prominently as possible and as practical as feasible in the various attempts to contain the pandemic. The situation reflects the on-going schism between neo-liberal and traditional Ghana in the development process. All the same, traditional Ghana, ever humble, is moving on, as always, trying to find solutions, such as the cure for HIV/AIDS, to Ghana’s problems.

This state of affairs has made many an HIV/AIDS campaigns wobbly, one-sided, and not as holistic and representative as expected of a campaign that borders on life and death. Despite this unbalanced circumstances, it appears Ghana was winning the war against the pandemic. Not so, according to the latest figures released by the Ghana AIDS Commission, the main HIV/AIDS watcher, which reports that “HIV infection among pregnant women has increased from 2.7% to 3.2%.” Depending on your perception, in statistical terms, the 0.5 per cent increase may sound insignificant, but in practical terms, especially when talking about HIV/AIDS, it is as significant as life and death. The national prevalence rate, too, has also gone up from 2.1% to 2.2%. That’s apart from the pregnant women, HIV/AIDS Ghana-wide has increased by 0.1 percent. Once again, this may be insignificant for some people but in health terms, it is a serious matter that needs urgent attention against the backdrop of poor health practices, poor sanitation, and weak healthcare infrastructure. Traditional medicine may not get the needed attention as the orthodox one, yet it is still the bedrock of Ghanaian medicine. Sometimes, envious orthodox medicine attempts to suppress the traditional, as it have been doing since the colonial times, using the usual phrase “proof it scientifically.” When Dr. Nicholas Kofi Antwi, of the Ashanti Region-based Chromic Disease and HIV/AIDS Treatment Centre, which work with traditional medicine, announced that his centre has found cure for HIV/AIDS, officials of the Ministry of Health and Ghana AIDS Commission went mad without listening and working with him - a sign of the orthodox attempting to burly the traditional. “Nonsense,” said orthodox medicine, “traditional medicine cannot claim that HIV/AIDS is curable and therefore the public should not mind traditional medicine – where is the scientific proof that there is a cure for the disease.” And sometimes, the claims of traditional medicine can have global implications. Dr. Antwi and his outfit were warned against their claim since the World Health Organization, the global heath watcher, said there is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. Once again, the orthodox, blinded more by arrogance than scientific thinking and open-mindedness, is not trying to understand the traditional, and in the ensuing struggles, undermining many a traditional medicine’s attempts to open up the doors for sober at how it can help solve the HIV/AIDS problem. But traditional medicine, seeing itself as mother of all medicine, has been soldiering on, putting the schism with orthodox medicine at bay. Under the immense shadows of orthodox medicine, reputed traditional herbalists are working hard to find cure for HIV/AIDS. No doubt, the Ministry of Health and Ghana AIDS Commission are overwhelmed by all sorts of claims by some traditional herbalists. In May this year, in a mixture of openness, traditional and orthodox medicine, academic institutions and other collaborative agencies, the headline globally was “Cure for HIV/AIDS found in Ghana/Africa.” The relief was that Ghanaian traditional medicine has found cure for HIV/AIDS – called “Koankro” and needed the scientific hands of orthodox medicine to proof it. Mr. Kamara Agyapong, director of a Peace Herbal Clinic at Ejisu, Ashanti Region, said his herbal medicine can cure HIV/AIDS and has been tested scientifically as credible by the Biochemistry and Biotechnology Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The long-drawn conviction by traditional medicine that it can cure HIV/AIDS is getting dividends despite having no big finances, big public relations budgets, big laboratories and institutions, and poor government backing compared with the big pharmaceutical corporations. In a remarkably happy turn of events, the Accra-based government-owned mass circulation “Daily Graphic” (September 5, 2007) reported that a group of Ghanaian doctors and ethno-botanists and their collaborators in the United States have moved closer to discovering traditional/herbal medicines for the cure of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B. This has global implications, with traditional medicine proudly walking the world over for tests and recognition, and not concerned about its long suppression by orthodox medicine and its neo-liberal appendages. Known as MAB Formula One, which kills the virus completely, and MAB Formula Two, which is an immune booster or immune modulator, tests were done in Ghana and internationally. This includes the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (Accra, Ghana), the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine (Mampong-Akuapem, Ghana) and, internationally, at prominent health institutions such as Corning Hospital (New York, USA) and Maryland Medical Laboratory (Baltimore, USA). Has the discovery of the MAB Formula One and MAB Formula Two HIV/AIDS herbal medicines harmonize the relationship between traditional and orthodox medicine? Will Dr. Antwi and Mr. Agyapong get the respect and peace of minded needed for them to continue with their traditional medicine work? Will the Ministry of Health, Ghana AIDS Commission and the World Health Organization, with their scientific methods to test the validity of the traditional cure, come down from their high horses and cooperate with traditional medicine for the common good of Ghanaians and humanity?

In MAB Formula One and MAB Formula Two HIV/AIDS herbal medicines are the days of HIV/AIDS pandemic finished?



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