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Jammeh, Dr. Mbowe to face justice over 41 deaths of HIV/AIDs patients

Mar 3, 2022, 12:12 PM

Among the alleged number of atrocities the former President Jammeh must answer to if he is to eventually face justice, is the HIV/AIDs treatment known as the President's Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP), which claimed at least 41 lives of HIV/AIDs patients, according to the TRRC report.

"In January 2007, former President Yahya Jammeh made a public declaration that he had received a “mandate from God” to create a cure for HIV/AIDS in the form of herbal treatment. Yahya Jammeh further announced that he discovered the cure from seven herbs found in the Qur’an," the report states.

"Following this declaration, Yahya Jammeh took the bold step of establishing the Presidential Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP) by which avenue he introduced a fake, fraudulent and bogus treatment, stating that the herbs he had mixed into a concoction could cure HIV/AIDS within 3 days."

"Yahya Jammeh did not consider the serious nature of the disease and went ahead to administer his fraudulent treatment on persons living with HIV/AIDS with little or no opposition because the treatment was associated with the incredible power and influence he had as the President of the nation. In addition to this, he got rid of anyone who dared raised an eyebrow."

"Ms. Fadzai Gwaradzimba, a UN representative was given 48 hours to leave The Gambia for saying that ‘claims of cures for AIDS could encourage sufferers of the disease to engage in risky behavior and make the AIDS problem in Africa worse."

Rolling out his fraudulent treatment, "he requested for 10 HIV patients from Santa Yallah Group, a support group for people living with HIV, to administer his unfounded and scientifically unproven cure to them."

"According to witness testimonies of the first and second batches, they were not given the choice to decline or told that it would be publicly shown on the national TV, Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS). The witnesses said the treatment involved applying something that looked like a green paste having a menthol scent, coupled with an application of a gray-colored solution, which he sprinkled on peoples’ skin. They were also made to drink a brownish tea-like liquid."

"Additionally, these people were specifically ordered by Yahya Jammeh to stop taking their antiretroviral drugs, which weakened their immune systems and made them more prone to infections."

The report highlighted that when PATP was introduced in 2007, 8,000 people lived with HIV in The Gambia, but this number rose to 21,000 in 2018 due to Jammeh's disastrous negligence.

"It is also important to point out that the cohort of the PATP patients constituted people who willingly subscribed to the PATP and those who joined under duress.

"They were also strictly instructed to participate in the programme, warned against discontinuing and prohibited from taking their antiretroviral medication. Furthermore, patients were also forbidden from eating or drinking anything outside the PATP facilities and from receiving visitors."

"Another disheartening discovery from witness testimonies is that the names, faces, counts, and viral loads of patients were published on an official website promoting and providing information about the programme without prior consent."

"Unfortunately, for far too long, the absence of local and international opposition to Yahya Jammeh’s purported claims enabled him to continue to lead a health dictatorship in a political environment that lacked protection mechanisms for people living with HIV."

"This amounts to a complete disregard for medical ethics, including denying full disclosure and information about the PATP cure. It also undermined patient autonomy and confidentiality. "

"Additionally, he shaped a climate of fear that intimidated health care workers and policy personnel working on HIV, thereby affecting the quality of health care services for people living with HIV."

"The Presidential Alternative Treatment Program has led to the death of many patients during and after the treatment and The Commission was able to establish 41 of these deaths."

"MC73 narrated that after they drank the concoctions, Yahya Jammeh would ask them about the colour of their feces, which he found very degrading. If the color was yellow, then that was normal and if it was green, it was a problem. They were forced to admit that they were being cured by Yahya Jammeh’s concoctions when in truth, they participated in the hoax to safeguard themselves from being victimized.”

TRRC also found out that Dr. Tamsir Mbowe was an accomplice to Jammeh by endorsing the programme which led to rights violations and the loss of life and for not upholding the standards of ethics as provided in the codes of ethics and professional conduct for medical and dental practitioners in The Gambia.

"Dr. Mbowe failed to ensure that informed consent was obtained from the participants of the PATP and did not give attention to the sensitive nature of the disease, the social factors, and the need for psychological support."

Therefore, the Commission recommends that former President Yahya Jammeh and Dr. Tamsir Mbowe be charged with murder and prosecuted for "intentionally and knowingly" causing the death of People Living With HIV/AIDS

The Commission has also recommended that Yahya Jammeh and Dr. Tamsir Mbowe be prosecuted for negligence causing deaths of PLHIV and also be prosecuted for the inhumane and degrading treatment meted out on PLHIV that took part in the programme.

The truth commission also recommended that Yayha Jammeh be prosecuted for admitting children

into the PATP in violation of the provisions of the Children’s Act 2005 and the Convention on the Rights of a Child and that the practising licence of Dr Tamsir Mbowe be indefinitely revoked by the Medical and Dental Council for his failure to honour the medical code of conduct and for the role he played in the fake PATP.

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