Friday, February 6, 2009

AIDS Fraud

Nigeria has the second highest rate of AIDS infection in the world, but the vast majority of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. So it's understandable that many of them turn to cheaper alternatives to potentially expensive AIDS medications. This means local healers and medicine men are raking in the cash. The only problem with this is that none of these folk remedies have ever been proven to work against AIDS, whereas real medicine has progressed to the point that AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Obviously there's a crisis of education and access to inexpensive medicine here, but Nigeria's Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development seems to be fighting the wrong fight. Instead of more actively discouraging people to visit these huckster "healers", they're pursuing research into whether these folk remedies actually work. On the surface, this seems like a great idea. After all, many modern medications are synthesized and refined versions of chemicals originally derived from herbs and other organic sources. But there's still the fact that these medicine men are more interested in making money that making sure people don't die. There's no reason at all to think that their so-called treatments have any possibility of working, but by devoting time and resources into testing their shams, NIPRD are lending them an air of deferred legitimacy. Meanwhile, people are dying of a treatable (if currently incurable) disease. Maybe when all those Nigerian businessmen finally get their email money from people overseas, they can start pouring it into more worthwhile causes. What's that you say about a scam? More details here.

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