by Tilak S. Fernando from London

The United Nation's latest report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, published to coincide with the World AID's Day sent a chilling warning about the dire consequences and devastation faced by Eastern Europe, Central Asian Republics, the Middle East and North Africa unless concerted action is taken now to stem the spread of AIDS.

Sighting Southern Africa as a typical living example where one in five adults in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe suffer from HIV or AIDS the official figures of the total of dead people (out of the disease) is estimated at 14 million in the region alone.

According to the report, the disease has fuelled the famine by claiming the lives of seven million agricultural workers in 25 African countries and millions of more people are on the brink of starvation in southern Africa because of the failed attempts to limit the spread of HIV. This in turn has left further millions more people starved due to non-availability of agricultural workers who have become victims of the deadly disease and died.

The report also highlights the alarming situation in Indonesia where injecting drug users have increased from an unheard of situation a decade ago to an estimated 200,000 in the capital, Jakarta alone, where HIV is positive compared with none four years ago.

According to the report by UNAIDS (the joint UN programme on HIV and AIDS) and the World Health Organisation China, Papua New Guinea and other countries in Asia and the Pacific could also face sharp rises in their epidemics over the next few years to come. The report put the figure of 11 million more people getting affected by HIV in Asia by 2007 unless effective preventive measures are stepped up.

According to Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of WHO: 'this is a critical moment of opportunity and danger. Unless we see national prevention initiatives championed by the highest level of government, the growth in infections can be unstoppable. We are at this critical moment today in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, Central, South and Eastern Asia.'

According to Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS: 'there is strong evidence from around the world that the AIDS epidemic does yield, in some cases dramatically, to determined human intervention. We can prevent 29 million new HIV infections this decade if we implement a full prevention package globally by 2005"

UNAIDS put an estimated figure of US$10.5bn by 2005 to launch effective prevention and care programmes in the countries most at risk.

China's first domestically produced combination drug treatment for AIDS, Didanosine, Stavudine and Nevirapine, which has received the government approval was due to go on sale by the end of 2002. Patients in China with AIDS are the target market for the latest Chinese drug but China has no plans at this stage to export the drugs. The manufacturers of the drug Shanghai Desano Biopharmaceuticals Company works on the basis of Ministry of Health figures of an estimated million HIV positive in China and between 100,000 and 200,000 with AIDS.

The Company estimates that the cocktail will cost patients around 230 a year, a tenth of the price of imported drugs which have a tiny market at present, despite UN estimates of 1.5 million HIV people in China at the end of 2001.

Even though the drug cost a fraction of their imported counterparts, the price they say will still put them out of reach of many rural people infected with HIV or with AIDS, unless the government subsidises treatment, the experts pronounce.

Perhaps the Director General of WHO will be pleased to know that a Sri Lankan doctor who lives in Kotte is confident of a cure for HIV/AIDS. Dr. Mass R. Usuf, who is a specialist in acupuncture, homoeopathy, palm diagnosis, magneto therapy and naturopathy in his analysis has come out with the theory that naturopathic treatment involving alternative methods of cure can be effectively used to fight HIV/AIDS.

In Dr. Usuf's explanation there are two types of T-cells (or T-lymphocytes) in the body. One type has molecules called CD4 on its surface and its function is to orchestrate an immune response to micro-organisms such as a virus. The other type has molecules called CD8, which has the power of destroying infected cells and produce anti-viral substances. Basically these two types comprise the immune response to antigens - bacteria, viruses, and fungi etc that enter the body.

HIV attaches itself to the CD4 molecule thus permitting the virus to enter and infect these cells. A person infected with HIV would feel well and have no symptoms (asymptomatic) though billions of CD4 T-cells are infected by HIV and destroyed everyday - however, billions more CD4 T-cells are produced to replace them of course.

Diagnosis of AIDS is made when a person has a very low count of CD4. HIV antibody factors in the system indicate a compromised immune system. When the HIV latches on to the CD4 cells and replicates, a healthy person who normally has a CD4 count of 500-1500 cells/mm3 of blood would lose about 50-100 CD4 cells per year when infected. After many years the CD4 count in the body becomes so low and starts showing the symptoms of full blown AIDS.

Dr. Usuf focuses on boosting the collapsed immune system in order to give back to the body what it has lost in the case of an HIV/AIDS patient to enable an 'energised' immune system to counter the virus's debilitating influence. How does he do this? According to Dr. Usuf, acupuncture for example, helps establish homeostasis - the physiological balance in the body. Once an apposite homeostasis is established and the body is converted from an acid-genic state to an alkali-genic state, immuno-potentiation would be the natural outcome - the body finally finds the natural strength to fight ANY invading pathogen.

Complementing acupuncture treatment with homoeopathy, palm diagnosis technique and magneto therapy in tandem with naturopathic methods would enhance the rejuvenating power of the immune system and keep the virus at bay.

The only medicine an HIV/AIDS patient needs is his own powerful immune system. Orthodox medications tend to blunt the immune system in trying to keep the virus at arms length. An HIV/AIDS patient would then never get over the problem as his immune system is compromised not only by the virus but by the drugs as well!! A paradox indeed!

As to alternative therapies, Dr. Usuf's view is that such therapeutics work differently from orthodox medicine. They, rather than suppressing the disease (which orthodox treatment does) penetrate through to the root cause of the problem and meet it head on at a subtle physio-dynamic level.

He says, that disease evolves from the subtle to the gross and symptoms manifest at the gross level. To eradicate the gross symptoms is mere palliation and not a true cure - achieved by orthodox medicine - but to bring about eradication at the subtle level is to go beyond the gross, to regress - and that is where alternative therapeutics excel.

Dr. Usuf announces that he is in possession of a drug developed by Dr. Peter Chapel, a homoeopath and an ex-Principal of a Homeopathic School in London. According to Dr. Usuf, Dr. Chapel has tried this drug on 200 patients with HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. " This has been done in the form of a clinical trial and there was great amelioration of conditions. The most amazing factor Dr. Chapel found in his clinical trials has been the CD4 count has increased to near normal levels of treated patients".

Unfortunately due to the lack of support from the State and medical authorities and due to monetary constraints, Dr. Chapel was forced to abandon his work. But Dr. Usuf says, he is in possession of the drug developed by Dr. Chapel - but he has still not been able to try it out as no HIV/AIDS patient has visited him for clinical trials. He faces the same problem as Dr. Chapel did.

He says that for the sake of the HIV/AIDS victims, practitioners, authorities and institutions aligned to the two branches of therapeutics namely, allopathic and alternative, should lay aside their differences and try this drug on patients on the basis of a scientific clinical trial by a joint exercise.

Dr. Usuf states that one need not fund multi-million dollar research programs nor wait for years for results of drug tests and approval. The drug is already there. It should be complemented with other alternative interventions to boost the immune system. One has to only try it. Is it asking too much when taking into consideration the immense suffering and cost involved?

Dr. Usuf is an ardent naturopath and his saying: "Man is nature and must by nature be nurtured" together with another of his sayings: "Let thyself be thy cure", are pregnant with meaning. He says nature never deserted man and has showed him the many paths of prevention and cure. Nature never meant man to use artificial agents, as anything unnatural would be detrimental to the internal economy of man - an amazing product of nature