Ezeibe has not gone through requisite steps, says Ihekweazu
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Abuja. Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He told CHUKWUMA MUANYA, Assistant Editor what is missing in Prof. Ezeibe’s HIV cure claim.
Is there a cure for HIV?
No, there is no cure for HIV. It is important that we do not deceive our people. There is no cure for HIV. However, treatment is available that allows those infected to live healthy and productive lives. We encourage everyone to get tested, know their HIV status and if positive, get treatment in one of many centres in Nigeria. Treatment is free.
How about the claim by the Prof. at Umudike?
Science is universal and there is no place for sentiments when it comes to science. While I would love for this breakthrough to come from Nigeria, there should be no emotional considerations in assessing the validity of scientific evidence.
My colleague at Umudike claims to have a cure for HIV, but he has simply not gone through the requisite steps of scientific research to prove that he has a cure. When he does, and if results are promising, we will support him. Science is no beauty contest, and sadly, there are no short cuts.
Most worrying is that apart from the scientific process, there is also an ethical problem as the good Professor has not shown that ethical clearance was received for the study, neither could he show that informed consent was received from those to whom his “drug” was given. If this were indeed the case, then we would have a lot to be worried about.
Overall, there is simply no scientific basis to begin the conversation on a cure.
What is the situation now?
The situation is still that we have an effective treatment programme for HIV/AID in Nigeria and there are over 800,00 Nigerians currently on lifesaving antiretrovirals. We appeal to all those on treatment to stay on treatment! The Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health has mandated the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, to investigate his claim. I believe they will do a thorough job and the results will be made public. For now, there is no cure for HIV!
The National Assembly has mandated the NCDC and NACA to investigate the story. How are you going about that?
Our work at NCDC is to protect the health of Nigerians from infectious and none infectious public health threats. Our advice to all Nigerians is not to consume any substance that has not gone through appropriate clinical trials and approved by NAFDAC as a medicine. Our interpretation of the request by the National Assembly is to strengthen our ability to protect Nigerians from the harm of substances that have not gone through the appropriate clinical trials to show that they are safe for human consumption.
There are so many people across the country that claim to have a cure for HIV. What is your advice to them?
There is nothing we want more than a cure for HIV/AIDS, a disease of great public health importance to us. There are many herbalists that claim to have a “cure”. We would not make statements about them. We allow people who chose alternative medicine to do so. However, this professor is given credibility by his profession as a scientist and if you are a scientist, you have to be held accountable to the principles on which science is built.
We advise colleagues working on a cure for HIV/AIDS to follow due process and globally accepted best practice. There are no short cuts to good science. The Federal Government- Ministry of Health and its agencies are happy to support progress in the health sector. What we want to avoid is false hope given to patients who may now abandon their ARVs, thus leading to an increase in prevalence and mortality from the disease. We also do not want a situation where the trust of partners and donors in our health system is lost.