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HIV patient paid to market herbs

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By BHEKI GAMA - SWAZI TIMES-07-Jul-2009

MANZINI-A man who convinced HIV positive patients to abandon conventional medicine for herbal remedies has alleged that he was paid to lie.

Themba Dube, who is also HIV positive, said he used to talk on Channel Swazi as someone who had been cured of HIV after taking a herbal concoction prepared by a popular herbalist based in Manzini. The herbalist is one of many who have slots at the TV station.

The two met in 2006, and started working together for close to two years, during which time many were convinced that the herbal remedies were a solution to HIV and AIDS. Dube alleged that he would be paid anything between E100 to E300 per week for lying.

Dube said he would lie on television that the herbal concoction had succeeded where antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) had dismally failed. For this, Dube was remunerated by the herbalist who is also double as the host of the programme every Sunday. “Yes, I was paid commission for my television appearances wherein I used to lie that I had been cured of AIDS by his concoction,” he said, adding that the little money he was paid made a difference since he was not employed and had been sick for a long time. Dube revealed that many ill, especially HIV positive people, would flood the herbalist’s residence the following day in search of a cure after every television appearance.

Sickness Dube’s relationship with the herbalist started when he appeared in a TV interview about his sickness. “In the interview on TV, I explained that I had been to every doctor, prophet, herbalist and tried almost everything. The following morning the herbalist called and said I should not have said that because I had not tried him. He then offered to give me free medical attention only if I agreed to market his products.”

Dube said he could recall lying that a wound on his knee started healing and drying up after he abandoned ARVs for the herbalist’s remedies when in fact the wound had already been healing before he met the herbalist. “He knew that it was the wound under my foot that was giving me a tough time which he failed to heal. I had to lie to continue drawing an income,” he admitted.

He said the herbalist forced him to abandon ARVs and he did for a period of three months during which time his health deteriorated. “It then dawned on me that death was imminent and I approached the RFM Hospital where I pleaded with the health workers to help restart me on ARVs,” he said. Dube said during the time he defaulted, he continued going to the RFM Hospital for refills and pretended as though he was religiously on ARV treatment. He said after he was restarted on ARVs, he started on a path of recovery, something the herbalist flaunted as results of his concoction on his television programmes.

Remedies “Our relationship was destroyed after I told him that his remedies did not work for me and that I only got better after I restarted taking ARVs. He then accused me of being paid to destroy him, and we have been on opposite sides ever since,” Dube said Health Educator at the Swaziland National AIDS Programme (SNAP) Muhle Dlamini said he was aware of Dube’s issue. “This impacts negatively on HIV treatment because people are made to believe that there is a cure and therefore they can sleep around as they wish,” Dlamini said, adding that this led to an increase in the HIV infection rate. A woman who answered the herbalist’s mobile phone said he was not willing to entertain issues pertaining to Dube. The herbalist has since moved his ‘laboratory’ from Ngwane Park to Mbikwakhe in Matsapha.


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