Ugandans Turn to Lizard Blood for Aids Cure
Posted: Saturday March 15, 2008 3:39 PM BT
By Kefa Atibuni & Tabu Butagira - Yumbe/Kampala
Desperate people living with the HIV/Aids virus in Yumbe district, northwestern Uganda, have resorted to an ominous therapy - that of injecting themselves with blood drawn from an uncommon type of lizard.
Natives believe the reptile, locally called Lepe is a panacea for Aids ailment.
Mr Isaac Anguyo, the director of the West Nile-based Here is Life Christian organisation, exposed the disturbing story during a recent HIV/Aids Stake holder's meeting in Yumbe.
Veterinary experts at Makerere University, who studied photographs of the said reptile, identified it as the White-throated monitor lizard or Varanus albigularis albigularis - known for its medicinal content.
Mr Anguyo, during the assembly with Yumbe leaders, showed video footage of testimonies of some people living with the deadly virus who claim they made stunning recovery after being injected with lizard blood!
In a segment of the recording, a man, his two wives and a daughter - all self-confessed persons living with the Aids virus - assert that they felt better once blood of the cold-blooded reptile was introduced to their bodies. The family claim the brawny and scaly lizard is a nice delicacy too.
Makerere University veterinary doctors; Edward Wampande and his research colleague David Kalenzi said extractions from the white-throated monitor lizard heal diabates, kidney and skin infections and acts as aphrodisiacs or enhancement of sexual potence.
Information sourced from on-line scientific journals show that dried gall bladders of monitor lizards also cure heart problems; impotency and liver failure while the fat is used to treat deteriorating eyesight, arthritis, rheumatism and muscular pains.
However, one woman said she blacked out soon after being injected with the lizard blood and only regained consciousness after 24 hours.
Here is Life NGO, with funding from US aid, is currently running an Aids awareness campaign dubbed "Accelerating the prevention of HIV/Aids in Yumbe district".
The use of lizard blood for perceived Aids treatment has convulsed Yumbe town council. The practice is reported to have spread to all the other seven rural sub- counties.
Prof. Peter Baguma, the head of Organisational Psychology at Makerere University, said yesterday that the medical gamble was a "coping mechanism" by people living with HIV, some of whom are already frustrated by the delayed discovery of Aids vaccine.
"People with chronic health problems, irrespective of where they live, look around for all sorts of treatment, including dangerous options," Prof. Baguma said adding: "They may get temporary relief by using lizard blood; of course they won't heal of Aids and will only become worse off economically".
He said using medicinal extracts from unique lizard species would have a greater psychological impact on the users and reinforce the belief that it cures Aids.
Mr Anguyo declined to identify the individuals involved in the so-called "treatment" arguing that the matter is very sensitive and that such exposure could jeopardise further interventions.
Already, more Yumbe residents are hastily abandoning the scientifically proven Anti-retroviral drug therapy to take on the crude placebo.
Last Wednesday, Dr Alfred Yayi, the district health officer reported that three out of 10 people on AVR treatment in Lomunga parish, Kuru Sub County had suddenly dropped the drugs and opted to use the lizard blood.
The hitherto valueless reptile is now a pricey item with black marketers selling each at Shs300, 000 or $177 and smuggling it into Sudan.
Dr Yayi said one of the lizard blood users had developed gangrene of the leg; a complication of necrosis characterised by the decay of body tissue, which become black and fetid as a result of critical blood insufficiency.
Initial reports indicated that a woman in Yumbe, who thought the reptile was poisonous, had cooked and served it for her daughter who was critically ill with Aids so that she dies quickly. In what Prof. Baguma described as a "happy accident", the targeted victim instead made a confounding recovery.
Other accounts say that natives began exploring alternative uses of the reptile after a white man, brought by the former area Member of Parliament Manoah Achile asked to buy them at an exorbitant price.
In other Aids cure stories, a woman called Yoanina Nanyonga in the remote Ssembabule - then Rakai District - caused national uproar in 1991 when she claimed that a concoction of soil in her compound could treat Aids.
Later, other pastors among them late Mukasa Balabyekubo who founded Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga's Christian Life church in Bwaise, Kawempe Division in Kampala claimed they could pray and heal Aids patients.