Mchape, a traditional concoction in Malawi stormed the HIV cure scene with pomp, but disappeared silently in disgrace.
Many other initially promising but ultimately doomed pretenders to the cure for HIV have come and gone, but the elusive conqueror of the devastating virus remains well beyond the horizon.
Or is this about to change now? Could a Lilongwe-based Malawina woman Gloria Jeremiah and her Garani MW 1 Herb be the real deal the world has been waiting for to deliver the knockout blow against a virus that has decimated populations across the globe?
No doubt, says Jeremiah.
Jeremiah says there is scientific evidence that her herb can make HIV disappear and that some people are free of the virus because of the drug.
Since 2009, Jeremiah claims has been engaging Malawi Government to certify the drug as an HIV cure, but all in vain.
Since the drug was discovered in 2007, Jeremiah has gone about her business silently, hoping that science would do its part to give it the final stamp of authority as the world’s first cure of HIV.
“Preliminary analysis was done at Chancellor College’s Chemistry Department under Professor Saka with the consent of the Office of the President and Cabinet, Nutrition, HIV and Aids. The herb was also given to the Malawi Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board for analysis. Preliminary results found three major moieties (parts or functional groups of a molecule) in the powder which need to be further identified,” said Jeremiah.
She said things became tricky when government demanded that she reveal the name of the tree from which she gets the powder so that it is fully analysed before it can be certified and patented.
Malawi’s Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and Aids Dr Mary Shawa confirmed that her office took the medicine to the Malawi Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board, but added that it is necessary for Jeremiah to identify the tree before it can be certified.
“When such discoveries are made, they have to go through several stages; we need to name it as a country; the next stage is to subject it to testing and processes before we can send it to the World Health Organisation which is the only body that can certify it,” said Shawa.
She said the drug is one of the priorities on her desk and that she called Jeremiah to discuss the issue.
But Shawa said the issue has stalled because Jeremiah insisted on patenting the drug first before the tree is revealed.
On why she is insisting on patenting the drug before revealing the name of the tree, Jeremiah said: “Once the name of the tree is revealed, we could lose our intellectual rights. That’s why we insist on patenting first before anything like revealing the tree can happen.”
Jeremiah has since engaged a Malawian and foreign doctor to help her with the patenting process.
Away from the legal hustles, the drug continues to sell in silence. Jeremiah said many people who get “cured” are hesitant to come out into the open for fear of discrimination. News of the herb spreads through word of mouth.
On the efficacy of the drug, Shawa said: “I have seen a few people who used the herb and their problems and symptoms disappeared. Mind you, I am not saying cured, it disappeared and hid the HIV.”
She said it is difficult to say for certain that one is cured of HIV because even prolonged intake of ARVs can hide the virus. She warned those using the herb against stopping taking ARVs.
Shawa said she appreciates that the drug could provide hope to people infected by the virus and that this is the reason the issue is a priority for her department.
“We want the herb, but the owner is uncomfortable with property rights. That’s where we stalemated,” she said.
Garani MW 1 Herb was discovered by a man from Lilongwe who was shown the herb in a dream in 2007. He was HIV-positive and was on ARVs from 2005 to 2007.
He got ‘cured’ after taking the medicine. The man has been tested several times for HIV and is still HIV-negative.
After being rebuffed by some authorities, he contacted Jeremiah who has pioneered the medicine since. The man wants to remain out of the limelight, but if the herb is patented, he will have all rights over the drug.
Jeremiah challenges anybody to bring an HIV-positive person for treatment.
She says the herb does not clash with other medicines and that the only side effect associated with the herb is an increase in the level of appetite.
“I delayed coming open about the herb because I wanted to have tangible scientific evidence and I was afraid that it could affect my studies, but since I am finishing my Master’s degree this year, I feel this is the time,” said Jeremiah, an alumna of The Polytechnic where she studied environmental health.
A retired senior government official, who did not want to be identified, revealed that he took the drug three years ago and has been HIV-free since.
“It’s contingent but it works. I am a living proof. I quit taking my ARVs over two years ago. I think if you believe in this medicine, it works…but don’t mention my name,” he said.
The full course of the medicine is three teaspoons of the powder taken over a period of three days, repeated after two weeks. The herb is supposed to be applied in porridge without sugar or salt.
It is sold at K4 000 per pack and this is all it takes to make the HIV disappear within or even before 18 months.
A foreign doctor who is in the country to help with the patenting process said from the trials she conducted, there is hope that it could be a cure for HIV, but said a lot needs to be done before the drug can be certified as a cure.
The doctor gave the medicine to 18 HIV-positive people and from the preliminary results released last week, 10 people tested HIV-negative whereas others are still under observation and treatment.
“There is scientific evidence that the viral load is reduced drastically, especially during the first three months after taking the herb. A number of patients that took the herb last year have viral loads below 50 copies per millilitre of blood. This is great because such people are leading a normal life and doing their usual businesses,” she said.
She said to determine if the person is free of HIV, there is need to use a DNA-screening method. The doctor is pessimistic that WHO would accept her results because “so far, regarding the ‘HIV end game’ the results are inconclusive.”
“I am mindful, however, that many lives could be saved right now by this herb with the current scientific data we have.”