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[LILONGWE] A Senegalese scientist has disputed test results used by Gambian President Yayha Jammeh to support claims that he had found a cure for AIDS.

Souleyman Mboup, a professor at the University of Dakar, Senegal, said that the findings were made under "false pretences" and that, in any case, Jammeh's interpretation of the results was incorrect.

In February, the Office of the Gambian President announced that tests conducted by Mboup confirmed that the treatment was successful.

But in a statement (24 April), released through the International AIDS Society (IAS) and the Society for AIDS in Africa, Mboup said that this was not the case.

He said that a laboratory technician had approached him with problems operating equipment in his own laboratory.

The technician received training to use the equipment in Mboup's laboratory and during this time requested to run tests on anonymous samples, which were later discovered to be patients who had received Jammeh's alleged AIDS cure.

"Of those samples 66.6 per cent were HIV positive; none could be described as cured. The interpretation by the Gambian authorities of the results of the HIV antibody and viral load testing on blood samples sent to my laboratory is incorrect," said Mboup.

He added, "There is no known cure for AIDS. Under no circumstance may results conducted in my laboratory be proof of an alleged cure for HIV. International rules regulate the conducting of trials in order to prove therapeutic efficacy."

Karen Bennett, IAS communications manager said, "It is premature and unethical to label the President's product a cure if it has not been thoroughly tested and proven."

She said Jammeh's treatment cannot be considered as a cure until it is scientifically proven that it is such. "There are international rules regulating the testing of medications, and these must be stringently adhered to in this case," Bennett told SciDev.Net.

The IAS is concerned that people are encouraged to stop taking antiretroviral drugs when using the President's treatment, which could result in disease progression and the development of drug resistance.

The World Health Organization has also urged patients not to discontinue medical treatment, stating that herbal remedies cannot take the place of comprehensive treatment and care, and that there is no cure for HIV infection (See WHO dampens Gambian president's HIV/AIDS claim).