Three individuals have sued for damages against an ex-Gambian president who gave them fake AIDS treatment. They were forced to give up anti-retroviral drugs, and to take home-made potions and use ointments instead.
On Thursday, three individuals filed their legal complaints against Gambia’s ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, at the High Court in Banjul. The complaints are in regard to a fake AIDS treatment program that the former president started in 2007.
The three, Fatou Jatta, Lamin Ceesay, and Ousman Sowe were some of the first to join the HIV/AIDS treatment program where they were forced to stop taking anti-retroviral drugs, and instead had to take home made potions that caused them vomit.
At the time, people were afraid to speak out against the long-term president, so doctors and patients stated that the drugs were, indeed, working. However, even then, UNAIDS encouraged Gambia to collaborate with other organizations to ensure the efficacy and safety of the supposed treatment.
Unfortunately, the victims’ health worsened, while others who joined the program eventually died.
According to the victims, the treatment also worsened the stigma against people with HIV as there were times when they were broadcast on television while being rubbed with ointment. Because of the publicity, they struggled to find houses to rent and even lost their jobs.
As such, the victims are suing for financial damages and are seeking for the declaration that human rights were violated during the program.
“Jammeh must pay for what he has done to us,” said Ceesay.
Yahya Jammeh is the previous president of Gambia who ruled the country for the past 22 years. His administration was marred with accusations of human rights abuses, and he moved to Equatorial Guinea after losing last year’s election.
HIV/AIDS In Gambia
According to UNAIDS, Jammeh’s program compromised real HIV/AIDS work in Gambia, a country that is already behind in treatment rates compared with other countries. In fact, in 2016, there were an estimated 20,000 people living with HIV, 30 percent of whom had access to anti-retroviral drugs.
That said, the country has still made significant progress in responding to HIV. Since 2010, new infection have decreased by 3 percent, while AIDS-related deaths have also decreased by 23 percent. The government has also established three agencies in response to HIV/AIDS since 1987, and developed three AIDS strategic plans since 1995.
A few of their goals include reducing HIV infections by half, and reducing mother-to-child transmissions of HIV by 10 percent to 3 percent by 2019. Further, they also aim to widen the coverage of access to anti-retroviral therapy from 21 percent to 90 percent among all people living with HIV by 2019.