Thousands have travelled to the east African country’s Ngorongoro district where a former pastor is selling a ‘cure all’ concoction people think can treat chronic diseases.
The pastor, Ambilikile Mwasapile says a single 20p cup of the herb Mugariga, used by local tribes, together with special prayers, can cure diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Tuberculosis, and Aids.
"I am advising the people who are HIV-positive and on ARVs, as well as the diabetics and those with other conditions, to continue with medication," said Health Minister Hadji Mponda. "As far as we are concerned, there is no scientific proof that the popular herb treats such diseases or of its impact on people already on medication," he said.
Pastor Mwasapile is seeing as many as 2,000 people a day, according to Plus news, and there’s a queue of more than 15,000 people waiting to see him in his village, Loliondo.
In the past month, more than 50 patients have died either on their journey to see Mwasapile, while waiting to see him or shortly after taking the Mugariga.
Several HIV-positive people claim the concoction has cured them. But no hospitals have ever confirmed that anyone has tested negative after seeing Mwasapile, said Bennet Fimbo from the Ministry of HIV/Aids.
The herb was only officially classed as safe for human consumption by the government last month. "Yes, the herb has been cleared, it is not toxic, but that does not guarantee its potency on the myriad diseases it is said to cure," said Mponda. "It will take long, perhaps many months or years to come to a scientific conclusion."
The village has for the past 20 years been a desperate area, with fighting over hunting and land ownership rights, involving international tourist companies. It is now struggling to cope with health and environmental hazards caused by the swarms of people descending on it.
There is no cure for AIDS or HIV infection, says international AIDS and HIV charity, Avert. “Although antiretroviral treatment can suppress HIV – the virus that causes AIDS– and can delay illness for many years, it cannot clear the virus completely. Sadly, this doesn’t stop countless quacks and con artists touting unproven, often dangerous ‘AIDS cures’ to desperate people.”