Saturday, January 27, 2007

The President of The Gambia can cure Aids!...in a day!

Fantastic news! The President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, can cure Aids! Ben Goldacre reports in the Guardian:

"The cure is a day's treatment" he says: "asthma, five minutes". HIV and Aids cases can be treated on Thursdays, and within three days the person should be tested again. "I can tell you that he/she will be negative."

Job done!

All is not what it seems, however:

Gambian bloggers have described the president - the president! - marching triumphantly into hospitals and leaving patients vomiting and in agony. It's hard to tell what the treatments involve, but Jammeh explains his patients are not allowed to eat seafood or peppers, and "they should be kept at a place that has adequate toilets facilities, because they can be going to toilet every five minutes." The official news source meanwhile - in a country where journalists have been imprisoned and shot dead in unexplained circumstances - reported that the president's curative power left doctors and nurses "mesmerised and stunned".

Ah!

I have somewhat made light of this story. However, on this subject it is worth reading the blogger, Ousman Ceesay, who is Gambian and covers issues in his homeland, on "Home of the Mandinmories". (I have just added this blog to my blogroll because it is so good). He articulates the tragic side to this farcical story:

The lunacy of Yahya Jammeh has no boundaries. The man is delusional and running the Gambia into the ground in the process. What kind of a prank is this fool pulling on Gambians? He will run to any dingy institution to get a title. Obviously being called doctor has gotten to his head. He is literally practicing some kind of voodo on patients admitted at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

My brother taught physics at Gambia High School (now Gambia Senior Secondary school) for several years. We spent a couple of weeks with him when I was a teenager. The President of the country then was Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who led the country from its independence in 1970 until he unwisely decided to go on holiday to London in 1994, triggering a coup which deposed him.

When in The Gambia, on New Year's Eve we gathered at the former BOAC club and were "honoured" by a visit from the President just before midnight.

The Gambia is a wonderful country, mainly because of its absolutely joyous people, who, by and large, are dreadfully poor. There was also an extraordinary sort of pirate radio station, broadcast on the ship left over from Radio Caroline South. It was called, I think, Radio Syd.

Many congratulations, by the way, to the journalist who wrote the Guardian article about this, Ben Goldacre. He won the Royal Statistical Society's inaugural award for statistical excellence in journalism last week. It is marvellous that there are still journalists so highly regarded by such an honourable institution.

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