Cure for AIDS

K Sani

Even while the whole world is seemingly grappling with AIDS and spending millions of money to find a cure for AIDS, two of our very own ‘traditional doctors’ has allegedly found a cure for AIDS (highlighted briefly in the 30th march edition of this daily) and were marketing their medicines at the recently concluded NE Expo.

AIDS, per se, is not a disease but a syndrome (set of symptoms) of opportunistic infections/diseases such as TB, malaria, diarrhea, etc. And being no medical expert I have, but a very insignificant idea of the intricacies of how medicines work, except that they do work scientifically, and sometimes miraculously. 

Some are flourishing on the ignorance of the people, some on the merits of their medicine/s, and some simply exist. But doubtlessly, Nagaland has its share of Quacks or self styled doctors. These doctors are, in general term, ‘pretenders of medical skills with no medical training or education’ and who claim cure/s for various diseases, both curable and incurable diseases. With no personal malice to any such doctors I must say that their presence in the society is both negative and positive. But when such quacks feed on the ignorance and gullibility of the innocent, the individual and society stands to lose. Money is wasted, while incurring direct or indirect harm on health, psychology, and time. I too had occasion to experience such loss when an illiterate aunt of mine (she lived alone in the village) who was seriously ill came to stay with us. She had a cancerous growth on her right palm which was in the final stages. The option then, was to have her hand cut off or to try out ‘magical medicines’ from a quack we had heard about. We chose the quack. Yes, we (so called educated) should have desisted from approaching such a quack but ‘our’ simple faith and belief of a cure made us to let her use the ‘medicines’(ironically a guarantee of complete cure was assured us by the quack). Finally the disease killed her, but not before much expenditure of money and time. Many, I believe, have walked the same path, and many more are likely to walk down the same path. We have our right to ‘freedom of choice’. And this right gives us the right to choose the alternatives/choices which, particularly in the field of medicines, are only scientifically based. When the choices offered us are fakes but claimed to be genuine, and our use of such alternatives harm us, we can then knock on the doors of justice.   

The comprehensive Indian legal system does not define ‘quack’ or ‘quackery’ and has no law to particularly deal with ‘quacks’. But it does make it clear under various Acts such as the Indian Medical Council Act, Medical Degrees Act, etc that those without recognized trainings, qualifications or degrees, cannot practice medicine. And if any individual practice medicine without such a Qualification/Degree or without authentic license’, or without any scientific basis to the claim, the individual is liable to be booked under various Sections of the Consumer Protection Act or the Indian Penal Code for unfair trade practice/s, cheating, fraud, etc followed by conviction of imprisonment or fine or both, and also cancellation of ‘license’, if any. 

With regard to claims for a cure of AIDS, The Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA) which regulates the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of medicinal drugs and cosmetics, in schedule j, specifically prohibits any drug claiming to prevent or cure AIDS. And the Drugs and Magic Remedies (objectionable advertisements) Act which specifically prohibits misleading advertisements related to drugs and magic remedies, prohibits advertisement claiming cure/prevention of HIV/AIDS. 

If indeed the purported cure is scientifically proven to serve the desired purpose, than the two ‘traditional doctors’ and consequently, Nagaland will be ever listed in the annals of history. But do we just accept it at face value? The various Governmental and Non Governmental Organisations/Societies/Agencies working in the field of HIV/AIDS and related issues need to seriously follow-up the claim, while medical experts should clinically test the medicine/s purported to cure AIDS. The medical licensing authorities need also to check the authenticity of such claims so as to give a ‘license’, else cancel or strictly restrict the continuance of any such self styled practices. And most important of all, the public must wake up in order to challenge or report to the right authorities when such practices flourish to the detriment of the society. And just as we need to support whatever good any of our people does, similarly, we must also adopt the means of positive checks and balances judiciously.