Friday, 21 February 2014

Protect your health

I can cope with poor service. When we hear from readers who’ve been treated poorly by a store I’m obviously sympathetic, often frustrated by the stories they tell but I don’t get angry.

Likewise, when a reader has encountered bureaucracy, inefficiency or just really SLOW service, I’m sympathetic, but I don’t get angry.

Even when a reader gets in touch to report a scam, I’m curious, often righteously indignant but it’s been a long time since I’ve become angry as a result. Ok, correction, there are scams that get me angry: the “romantic” scams where the victim is coaxed into feeling affectionate, perhaps even loving towards the scammer who is trying to extort money from them.

Luckily most potential victims realize quite quickly that all is not what it seems. If they’re not already sufficiently skeptical they contact us and we confirm that they’re about to give away money to a liar. Of course I can’t say how many victims actually fall for it and hand over their money, never to see it again. They’re the type that when they finally realize they’ve been duped, hide away in shame and embarrassment. Those are the only scammers make me angry.

Even the pyramid and Ponzi schemes rarely make me angry, mainly because the “victims” have often been willingly duped with the promises of riches. Greed got the better of them.

The worst that people recruiting for the distant cousins of pyramid schemes, Multi-Level or “Network” Marketing schemes have ever done is irritate me with their silly sales-pitches, exaggerations and hints that their products can boost your health or your wealth. They’re just an irritating, they don’t make me angry.

No, my anger is mainly reserved for a particular group who I would happily see tarred and feathered, put in the stocks and pelted with rotten food or dragged before a customary court for well-deserved thrashing.

People selling “cures” for AIDS.

Several times in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen advertisements on the internet for various products making some remarkable claims. First there was the “Mo-gae” miracle soap that apparently protected people from HIV infection “better than a condom”. Their web page said that it offered “100% protection against HIV and sexually transmitted diseases”, that consumers “can have a child with your HIV positive woman without the risk” and, bizarrely that you should “use it religiously such that if your partner is promiscuous what she acquires is hers alone (three of mine tested positive but I am still ok because I trust Mo-gae not a person)”.

This is dangerous, sociopathic nonsense.

Luckily the Ministry of Health were alerted and very quickly took measures to warn the public not to waste their money or risk their health. Their press release reported that the Ministry was “extremely alarmed” by the misleading claims the supplier was making. They urged the public “to ignore such claims as there is currently no known vaccine against HIV/AIDS infection.”

Unfortunately the creator of this ridiculously dangerous nonsense, Londane Mokolwane, wasn’t taking this setback lying down. He wrote to an online newspaper claiming that having washed with his soap, “I am incapable of being infected with anything”. That isn’t funny I’m afraid. It’s homicidal.

The there was more. An ad you can see on Facebook offers a product called “Herbal Wash Xtra” that, the ad claimed was an “Amazing New Nano Based Tonic for Chronic Infections, HIV, Cancer, Skin Problems, Pain Relief”.

To be fair, they go on to say that it's useless. They say that to "describe the active ingredient, you can take your pick. However, the truth is that there is no particular active ingredient."

Nevertheless they claim that it "will pull toxic metals out of your system, detoxify your blood leaving it free of viruses and bacteria. Herbal Wash Xtra encloses the toxins in its revolutionary nano-sized (that's 1 billionth of a meter)particles, Once enclosed, these toxins are rendered harmless and then your body can naturally dispose of them."

Frankly if this was true someone somewhere would have won a Nobel Prize by now. They haven’t so I think it’s safe to assume they’re liars. Most worryingly, these charlatans have found distributors here in Botswana and my feeling is that if these people are selling this products they deserve to see the inside of a cell.

Finally there was a third appalling product, also advertised on Facebook. This one, calling itself Topvein International operates from a website called “AIDS Cure Found” and claims that it is a “scientifically tested herbal medicine that is used as the best alternative medicine in the treatment and cure of HIV and AIDS at 99% effective”.

[Want a closer look?]

Without offering any evidence at all, they proceed to suggest that it “is effective against all opportunistic infections and 35 diseases due to HIV-1 subtype B and subtype C which is largely found in the sub Saharan region and also HIV-2” even though they say it “has no side effects in both humans and animals and has never shown any known side effects when tested in children and pregnant women”. Any treatment that has no side effects is one that has no effect at all, like homeopathy.

Tragically, there have been various people supporting these charlatans, some criticizing the Ministry of Health for warning us, others (the more deranged ones) supporting these peddlers of dangerous nonsense.

As my hero, Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. None of these products have any evidence in their favour at all, let alone any extraordinary evidence. Given that the producers of all of these dangerous products can produce no evidence at all I think it’s fair to say they’re liars and charlatans and they deserve to be run out of town.

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