Monday, June 25, 2007

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Laugh, cry, take your pick

In Der Spiegel, Marco Evers writes about the President of Gambia, ruled one 41-year-old Yahya Jammeh. He's quite the Renaissance man:

Jammeh -- a military officer who staged a successful putsch in 1994 -- is not just the president. He's also a healer on a divine mission. In January of this year, he summoned a number of his acolytes together with foreign diplomats and revealed to them that he had made an extraordinary discovery. He announced that, in addition to asthma, he was now capable of healing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- the epidemic that ravages sub-Saharan Africa like no other region of the world. More than 15 million Africans have already died of AIDS, and a further 25 million are infected with the HIV virus which causes the disease.

On Thursdays -- Jammeh's healing powers are only available to him on that day of the week he says -- the president frequently allows Gambian television to film him as he defeats AIDS: Patients lie flat on their backs as the president whirls around them and mumbles verses from the Koran. He slaps green sludge onto their skin, sprinkles liquid from an old Evian bottle over them and gives them a brown broth to drink. A quick banana snack completes the therapy.

That's it. Thanks to the power of the Koran and seven secret herbs this treatment, repeated over the course of several weeks, leads to the patient being cured of the lethal virus "with absolute certainty," as Jammeh says. But two requirements need to be met for it all to work. First: His patients have to renounce alcohol, tea, coffee and sex for the duration of their treatment -- as well as theft. And second: Whoever is taking anti-viral medication has to stop doing so immediately, according to Jammeh.

Even more disturbing is that the Gambian minister of health supports his president -- despite being a trained gynecologist educated in Ukraine and Ireland. The country's other institutions, including the parliament, are doing the same. And on the streets of the Gambia, demonstrations can sometimes be seen -- not against Jammeh, but in support of him.

Lest one think that Gambia has the monopoly on this sort of behavior among African leaders, Evers points out some more examples:
[South Africa's] former vice president, Jacob Zuma, has had unprotected sex with a woman who was HIV positive at the time. There was hardly any risk of infection, Zuma said publicly, since he showered immediately after having sex. It's astonishing that Zuma isn't more knowledgeable about the spread of HIV; he was, after all, previously the director of a national AIDS organization.

And the South African minister of health, a med-school graduate, advises those infected not to take anti-viral medication in favor of a mixture of garlic, lemon, potatoes and red beet. That's better, she says, because the side effects are less severe. "Dr. Red Beet," as she is mockingly called, also sympathizes with German miracle healer Matthias Rath, who sells vitamin drinks in South Africa as an alleged alternative to established HIV medication.

Writing in Passport, Preeti Aroon laments:
Speaking seriously, though, this "cure" for AIDS highlights the misinformation that surrounds the disease in many countries. In Africa, many aren't aware that condoms protect against HIV infection. Even if they are told, they also face anti-condom messages: Condoms are a conspiracy by whites to lower African birthrates; condoms are tainted with HIV to decrease the African population. On top of it all, traditional healers, tribal leaders, and the Catholic Church warn against using condoms. What is one to believe?

posted by Dan on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM


it's "DER SPIEGEL" (=mirror) not "DER SPEGEL"

bests from Germany,

posted by: Roland on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

Well, Darwinian forces work in strange ways sometimes. It's just sad that so many people can be so unbelievably ignorant or stupid.

posted by: JohnF on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

I lose my sense of humor when thousands are consigned to a lingering death by the willful idiocy of their leaders. So I'll weep rather than laugh.

The true horror is that Gambia's president has executed a massive flip flop on the issue. Check out his November 30, 2003 address on world AIDS day:


posted by: Appalled Moderate on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

Yes, it is a good thing our government unequivocally backs the use of condoms to stop AIDS.

In the language of IRC: /me ducks.

posted by: Daniel Nexon on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

Y'know whom Jammeh reminds me of?


He probably is urged on by a witch doctor who looks eerily like Addington.

posted by: Anderson on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

I wonder if John F realizes that Africa was torn apart by european countries. His Darwinian comment shows the insensitivity and ignorance that runs rampant in this world and people like him.While millions of uneducated (not stupid), people are dying people like John F and his band of thieves are probably in full support of the war in Iraq and against real solutions to assist the less fortunate and exploited.

posted by: Brother Nature on 06.25.07 at 12:06 AM [permalink]

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