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[BANJUL] The Zambian Ministry of Health has said it will prosecute two men promoting a HIV/AIDS treatment if they do not provide evidence of the drug's ability to cure.

The Zambian Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority, under the Ministry of Health, has summoned a businessman from the city of Lusaka and his American associate to appear before a committee of experts to answer questions on the chemical Tetrasil.

The duo are accused of selling Tetrasil — which has not been clinically tested — to private clinics as a drug to treat HIV/AIDS, contravening Zambia's procedures regarding the sale and use of medicines.

The Zambian government requires anyone claiming to have a drug to cure HIV/AIDS to submit samples to the National AIDS Council for scientific testing.

The ministry's director of clinical services, James Simpungwe, told a parliamentary committee on health last week (1 June) that Tetrasil — whose main component is silver — is used as a medical disinfectant and to sterilise swimming pools.

The director of the HIV treatment advocacy and literacy campaign, Felix Mwanza, told the committee that the drug is being administered to patients at cost of US$1,500 per injection.

He said so far 26 people have received a course of treatment of the drug. 

There are an increasing number of reports in Zambia that people with HIV/AIDS are being administered drugs that have not been subjected to scientific tests.

The health ministry's permanent secretary, Simon Miti, told the Zambia Daily Mail last week (30 May) that people claiming to cure HIV/AIDS were taking advantage of unclear guidelines in Zambia's pharmaceuticals act to test their concoctions on unsuspecting and desperate individuals.

Miti said if the situation continues, the police, immigration and the drug enforcement commission would address the situation.

Approximately 1.1 million Zambians are infected with HIV, including 130,000 children, according to the World Health Organization.