The former Health Minister and Director General of the Jammeh-created Presidential Alternative Treatment Program, Tamsir Mbowe has insisted that his ex-boss had cured HIV/Aids patients. Dr Mbow couldn’t show to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) a single document on any patients regarding their laboratory results. Jammeh’s treatment commenced 2007 and began discharging patients who he claimed were cured. Unfortunately, many of these patients soon died while several others returned to the conventional antiretroviral treatment. But Mbowe denied such claims in a combative proceeding on Wednesday.
“The program was true. The medication [herbal has the potency to eliminate the virus from the human system based on the viral loads,” said Dr. Mbowe. But he admitted that some patients who were under their care, had died though he refused to agree that they died of Aids, saying it was due to other diseases.
He argued that the treatment was based on scientific evidence as the viral loads that were at 200 million copies in the patients’ systems were proven undetectable of the virus after two months, three months or after three weeks of treatment. “How can that be possible? It’s because of the medications, Essa.”
“If you don’t have the virus, then you are cured from that particular ailment or that particular disease. When there is no positive agent that causes the disease, of course, you are cured from that disease. Once you don’t have the virus, it’s undetectable.
Mbowe claims that the most important thing about Jammeh’s treatment is the medication, as he explained how medications prevent the virus from attaching itself to the human body system. According to him, conventional medicine doesn’t have the treatment.
“This is where Yahya Jammeh’s treatment comes in. You said he’s using 7 to 20 different types of medications but the pharmacogenetics, how medications work is unknown because they don’t have the medications. So, how can anyone jump in the world and say that’s not true.” But Mbowe insisted that he doesn’t know the medications used by Jammeh despite being the director general of treatment. “Do I know the medications? I told you since the beginning that I don’t know. Is only Yahya Jammeh who knows the medications.
As far as Mbowe is concerned, the million dollar-question is not about how ‘fraudulent’ the treatment was, but how the world’s scientists continue to search for conventional medications for HIV/Aids. “That’s the million-dollar question. That’s everyone is after now – getting the medication – all the scientists in this world are all after just one thing – getting the medication, to study the medication.”
Mbowe who claimed that he’s “100 percent believe that Jammeh cured patients with HIV/Aids, said his convictions are premised on two things, cure is premised on two things including the laboratory results which reveals the viral load and the CD4 count and also on clinical gains which showed disappearance of symptoms in patients”.
Most of the patients Jammeh claimed were cured and discharged by the Mbowe himself told the commission in their various testimonies that they realized that they were not cured. Some died during the treatment, after the discharge while several others returned to conventional treatment. The TRRC confronted Dr, Mbowe with a video in which the witness presided over the discharge ceremony, according to him, virus was undetected in their systems.
The names he read out in the video were Ousman Sowe, Fatou Fadera, Fatou Kaw, Dado Jawo, Sulayman Sanyang, Kebba Saidy, Adama Sanneh, Yafai Touray, Maimuna Sanneh, Tida Gibba, Aja Touray and Dembo Bah who were all discharged to go home. Some of these people earlier told the commission that they were not cured and have since returned to the antiretroviral treatment.
Both Ousman and Tida Gibba died. One of the patients, Fatou Jatta told the TRRC that she was on sceptrin not on antiretroviral at the time of Jammeh’s treatment, implying that her condition was worsened by Jammeh’s treatment. Mbowe rubbishes this claim. But he admitted that four patients had died but refused to associate their death with the virus. For others he claimed they were cured, and added that there are possibilities that patients who are cured of HIV/Aids can be reinfected.
In conducting sample testing, bloods of patients were extracted and sent to Egypt, Senegal, Morocco for laboratory tests to confirm the status of their health. Dr. Mbowe admitted that on one occasion, 15 samples were sent to Dakar, in which three samples were not infected by the virus, claiming that Jammeh did that as a strategy to camouflage the growing global attention on his program.
The lead counsel Essa Fall then pressed him, telling the witness that it was all possible that all the samples that were sent to Dakar, Egypt and other places were not from people who are no way patients of HIV/Aids. But Mbowe insisted that it was not the case.
While he remains defiant that Jammeh’s treatment was true, he fails to show the commission any scientific evidence on the treatment, except the laboratory treatment and the clinical gains. Instead, Mbowe repeatedly referred the commission to Egypt to see the outcomes because he has no record to show.
“The nurses keep the record of the patients, he said. “I don’t know where they are [records.]I don’t have a single record about the treatment,” he said, even though he admitted that nurses were under his supervision and were reporting to him, as the director general of the Presidential Alternative Treatment Program.
“I don’t have a single record with me on any patient as we speak. All the documents are with Yahya Jammeh,” after he already claimed to have no idea where the documents were. “I handed over all the documents. Any documents I have pertaining to any patient I handed it over to him [president Jammeh]concerning their laboratory results.”
One medical doctor in Dakar, Professor Mboob who also conducted some laboratory tests for the program has since reacted, saying his test result conclusions were misinterpreted by the Gambia government. Dr, Mbowe said professor Mboob was lying claiming that he signed the document. However, he could not show the commission the document he claimed professor Mboob signed.
“I think for me personally, I have so many on my table rather than keeping the presidential treatment documents. I normally go through the documents and most of the time they’d call me to show the samples. They’d tell me the results before they come and we compare the samples. That comparison will show whether there were gains or not.”
He denied the obligatory responsibility to him as director to keep the records.
Mbowe has also admitted telling patients that their viral load has reduced when it was the first viral load test conducted. “Because, I was thinking that the first viral load testing was done already.”
But he accepted that a baseline must have been known first before indicating the status of viral load. “That was my mistake, I agreed to that. I strongly agree.”
Mbowe also initially disagreed that the pronouncement was not based on any scientific conclusion before later agreeing with the lead counsel. “That was my mistake, I accept. I strongly accept. Yes, [it was a fundamental mistake]because I didn’t have their baseline but I based it on their clinical gains. That was my error and I accept it. But one thing, based on their clinical gains, that gave me the confidence which came with symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitation, loss of weight, headache, insomnia…rashes all disappeared.