Local AIDS ‘cure’ to test on Batswana

University of Botswana (UB) molecular biologist, Professor Kerstin Andrea-Marobela has finally been granted research permit by the Ministry of Health to undertake a scientific study on a Palapye herbal prescription, ‘Seromabadimo’.

The herbal concoction manufactured by Palapye herbalist, Gladys Malebo made headlines more than two years ago due to its claimed anti-HIV properties. Marobela’s research team is now documenting patients’ experiences with the herb.

Marobela explained the study is looking for people living with HIV who have made the decision to embark on Seromobadimo treatment and who would be interested to take part in an arrangement where a medical doctor observes their treatment course without interfering. “The study participant would be asked to consent to giving a blood sample before Seromabadimo treatment, after Seromabadimo treatment and at two further follow-up times,” Marobela said.

The objective of the study is to better understand the benefits of this herbal preparation by establishing whether there is a status reversal after the treatment, to find out if there is a significant increase of CD4 cells and viral load decrease after Seromabadimo treatment among others.  This pilot study of exploratory nature mainly serves to gain information that is likely to inform the design of a proper clinical study, she said.  Forty participants are anticipated in the study.

On possible hindrances emanating from the sensitivity of traditional medicine and HIV/AIDS, Marobela said they have put a lot of attention to detail when it comes to confidentiality. 

“We included two medical doctors in our research team who do understand the importance of traditional medicine in primary healthcare and because of that, maybe less judgemental than others. We try to make sure that participants in our study feel comfortable and that everyone understands each other,” she added.

The study is intended for a period of one year, which includes data analysis and reporting with a budget of P250,000 provided by UB.

However, she wished the research permit was issued earlier. 

“I would wish that - without compromising the rigorous review - the time needed would be much shorter. In today’s rapidly changing global science world, even a few weeks in research is very long and one risks to become irrelevant very soon.

It would help the overall research climate in Botswana if these processes are better coordinated and the capacity would be increased in order to reduce the turnover time.”

The research findings are to be published in a respective scientific journal, with complete patient anonymity.

“Study participants will be informed of the outcome individually if interest is expressed. Again, the aim of our research is to investigate with our scientific tools the effects of Seromabadimo. We combine documentation of patient cases as described above with laboratory experiments,” she said.

“We hope that bringing both sets of information together we will gain a better understanding of Seromabadimo which will help Batswana and others to make better informed health decisions.”

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