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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Action sought on AIDS cures

Action sought on AIDS cures

THE traditional doctors' association in Cambodia has requested the Ministry of Health

crack down on the practice of individuals advertising "miracle" AIDS cures

in the country's press.

The Association of Traditional Cambodian Medicine, which represents many of the country's

kru Khmer doctors, said it had written to the ministry in early June asking that

action be taken against misleading adverts by four kru Khmer in Phnom Penh claiming

they could cure AIDS, lung cancer and liver disease.

"These adverts have misled the public and affect the honor and standing of all

kru Khmer," said the association's director, Muon Vanna. "They advertise

without any fear of the Ministry of Health."

One of the provisions of the new AIDS law, which was approved last month by the National

Assembly and is currently with the Senate, is the banning of false advertising.

Dr Heang Ponlei, who is the director of the Department of Traditional Medicine at

the MoH, forwarded the letter to Minister Hong Sun Huot and the Ministry of Information,

informing them of the "exaggerated advertisements".

"My department has asked some kru Khmer to stop these adverts, but they still

defy the order," said Ponlei. "Our job is to examine all health advertisements

prior to publication."

However one offender, 39-year-old Tok Dara, said there was nothing wrong with his

radio and newsprint adverts. When the Post pointed out the boast that 90 percent

of sufferers could be cured, Dara admitted he was unable to actually cure AIDS with

his traditional medicines, merely make the patient live longer.

He added that he was not worried about the complaints, as he felt the numerous objections

he had received stemmed purely from jealousy. He maintained he was extremely ill

with AIDS in 1994 and concocted his own cure.

"I rose from death," he said. "In 1994 my weight was 36 kilograms,

and now I am 64 kilograms. I think we should be allowed to advertise and let the

people test our invented medicines."

Dara said his method improved patients' health by 90 percent, which he insisted was

far better than modern medicines with their serious side effects.

But when the Post asked to know what ingredients he used, he refused to identify

them out of fear that other kru Khmer would steal his formula. All he would say was

that it contained herbs and tree roots that are crushed and mixed with boiling water.

The vice-chair of the National Assembly's health commission, Nuth Sokhom, said advertising

such cures would soon be illegal.

"That is because there is no scientific proof regarding these AIDS treatments

and it would simply confuse our people," he said.

Sokhom said he was concerned with the growing number of kru Khmer who claimed they

could cure AIDS. He recently visited Phnom Vour in Kampot to see a traditional doctor

who claimed he could cure AIDS. He saw dozens of people waiting for treatment, and

when he asked the doctor about his treatment, he was told the 'cure' had come to

him in a dream.

"The government welcomes help from kru Khmer for treatment of hospitalized HIV

patients," he said, "but they should not give any assurances that they

are able to get rid of the disease."

The new AIDS law will go back to the National Assembly once the Senate has discussed

it, then the King will sign it into law. Under the law transgressors will be liable

for up to one year in prison, and a 1 million riel fine.



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