Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Magaya savaged over HIV claims

By Letwin Nyambayo

Government yesterday led the criticism of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) leader Walter Magaya after the charismatic preacher sensationally claimed at the weekend that he had found a cure for HIV/Aids and cancer.

Prophet Walter Magaya
Prophet Walter Magaya

Zimbabwe has an estimated 1,2 million people on HIV/Aids treatment — with tens of thousands more receiving life prolonging cancer treatment.

The Health and Child Care ministry pointedly pooh-poohed Magaya’s claims and any suggestions that it might have approved the preacher’s mysterious herbs, known as Aguma — which the PHD founder has said will go on the market this coming weekend.

“We were actually surprised to see press headlines (about this) because we were not informed. Usually, there is a process that has to be followed when such a discovery
is made.

“The founder has to submit the discovery to us and thereafter we take it to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) and scientists. An announcement can then be done after the process,” Robert Mudyirabima, the acting permanent secretary in the ministry of Health, told the Daily News.

In a further statement later, the ministry again dismissed Magaya’s claims.

“Medicines go through rigorous tests, including clinical trials, which involve use of the product under strict medical supervision.

“This is done prior to registration and the results are submitted to the medicines regulator as evidence of the effectiveness of the medicines.

“If the clinical trials are performed within the country, these trials are authorised by the secretary for Health and Child Care. This is to ensure that patients receive safe, effective and reliable medicines.

“Neither the medicines registrar nor the register of clinical trials kept by the ministry has a record of the cited medicine.

“Herbal medicines now require approval from the MCAZ and the product has not yet been submitted for review and assessment,” the ministry said.

On her part, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa urged Zimbabweans on HIV/Aids treatment to continue taking their medication.

“The ministry strongly urges all … on treatment for HIV and Aids to continue on their prescribed medication.

“Any form of discontinuation or switch made without the guidance of medical professions may lead to adverse consequences on their health,” she told journalists in Harare yesterday.

According to medical experts, it can take up to 12 years on average to develop a new drug — with the process including pre-clinical and clinical trials, where persons affected by the disease that the drug intends to cure are also involved to evaluate its safety.

On Sunday, Magaya told thousands of his congregants that his herb Aguma cures both HIV and cancer — adding that the government was ready to support him.

“When I approached the government, their response made me feel that they were ready to support us. Government will carry out its own research and is summoning a local research board to bring in people who are HIV positive and take statistics on people taking Aguma.

“They will test it for any threats to health, its efficacy and side effects among many other things and have the final say,” he said at his Waterfalls church.

He added that the government was set to announce the first public results on Aguma after 14 days, saying further that the herb had undergone the appropriate registration as a supplement in Zimbabwe and that he had also approached the World Health Organisation.

“We wrote to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and they said they would work hand-in-hand with government rather than individual-to-individual,” Magaya said.

The claims set off a wave of criticism as health professionals and rights groups said his revelations had the potential of destabilising the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) programme, which currently has millions of patients on treatment.

“In as much as some plants have shown medicinal properties, it is imperative that any claims to their effectiveness be made after acceptable independent verification has been done.

“In Zimbabwe, we have competent authorities in the form of the MCAZ and Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe who handle such.

“It is therefore worrisome should a claim be made before the said bodies have registered the medicine or complementary medicine.

“Thus, the RPA (Retail Pharmacists Association) would like to warn the public not to take any medicines that are not registered and are not sold in pharmacies,” the RPA said in a statement.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said Magaya should have made his claims after having been backed by irrefutable scientific evidence obtained through proper and ethical research methodologies.

“Such unverified claims have the potential to increase the number of Anti-Retroviral Therapy defaulters, increase risky behaviour practices and exposure to potentially harmful side effects of the herbs.

“The minister of Health Obadiah Moyo should publicly censure Magaya and also institute an investigation into the safety of the herbs he is claiming to have,” ZADHR said.

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA), which brings together all professional medical doctors, urged patients on ART to continue with their medication until there was evidence of Magaya’s cure claims.

“ZiMA urges all patients on ART to continue on their medication until medical evidence is provided to any claim of cure,” the doctors said on micro blogging site Twitter.

The National Aids Council (Nac) said any new medicines should first be subjected to rigorous clinical trials before they could be made available to the public for consumption.

“Nac is not aware of any such clinical trials locally or globally that have been conducted showing efficacy in the management of HIV.

“Those that claim to have discovered a cure must provide sufficient scientific evidence and regulatory approvals before going public with their claims.

“Zimbabwe currently has an estimated 1,2 million people receiving life-saving ART and it is important that we do not unnecessarily endanger their lives by claims of a cure that is unsubstantiated,” Nac warned.

The government is currently on an ambitious $103 million, five-year HIV-testing strategy — to raise the number of people who know their status, as the country bids to build on the progress which has been made in the last seven years, which saw new HIV infections falling by 50 percent.

The testing strategy is part of the government’s efforts to achieve the 90-90-90 target — which seeks to have 90 percent of all people with HIV know their status, 90 percent of diagnosed people being on treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment having suppressed levels of the virus in their bodies by 2020.

Zimbabwe has an HIV prevalence rate of 13,7 percent according to the 2016 national estimates.

The country has been making strides in its fight against HIV/Aids despite the current economic turmoil which health experts say has hit the operations of most of the country’s major hospitals, including the procurement of essential drugs for people living with the pandemic. DailyNews