AIDS: We expose the "goat cure" salesmen
- 1 Dec 06, 12:55 PM
“The trials have now to this date gone through three phases, all of which have proved totally reliable in the cure of Aids” – that is what it said on the business plan.
If the claim were true it would be headline news for the world. Instead the headline news tonight, on Newsnight, is that we have uncovered a scheme by a British company to test a totally unproven “cure” for AIDS on patients in the African kingdom of Swaziland. The “cure” is based on goat serum.
The scheme was proposed by a British-based company called CARD, run by a man called Michael Hart Jones. He approached film actor Richard E Grant to front the scheme: Richard was born in Swaziland – fortunately he was not born yesterday: he came to us....
Newsnight decided to take a close look at the men running the goat cure: an undercover team from the programme posed as investors. We secretly filmed Hart Jones and his business partner Dr Mark Wardell telling the tale. Tune in tonight to see what they claimed about a trial they had run with the Tanzanian army – later, once they’d produced their evidence – it all turned out to be much less than a “cure”: they had not even measured the viral load of the 20 soldiers they claim to have cured.
We showed our secret filming to a real expert in HIV/AIDS – Dr Michael Adler. What angered him was not just the claim – but the attempt to rubbish anti-retroviral drugs which are being rolled out all over the world.
We went to Swaziland to see for ouselves whether the claim was true that:
“antiretrovirals are regarded more as poisons than therapies and are mostly unavailable to the masses” (Card Business Proposal, November 2006).
Thankfully it is not – or certainly not there. Swaziland has an estimated 300,000 people with HIV – of which 10% have white blood cell (CD4) counts below 200. Of these, 15,000 are receiving anti-retroviral drugs – so that’s half of those who need them.
Medics in Swaziland told us that to meet the WHO target of 75% they need more money and focus by government and, guess what? A stronger message against traditional medicine and the belief in “miracle cures”. Instead, as you will see tonight, the Swaziland health minister invited CARD back to
“return to Swaziland in order to set a schedule for deciding on a starting point to move towards our joint understanding in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
And Newsnight has evidence that the all-powerful Swazi royal family has been roped into this scheme as well. Watch tonight to see what happens when an archaic governance system (this is the last absolute monarchy in Africa) runs up against the silver-tongued salesmen of goat serum.
In the end we decided to confront Michael Hart Jones: he was proposing to launch a trial in Swaziland where 40 patients with AIDS would be given ONLY the goat cure. As Richard E Grant told us, it would be like participating in somebody’s death sentence. So we sprang the trap – tune in tonight to hear Mr Hart Jones’ attempt to explain himself.
In the meantime I will give you some of the jaw-dropping background to goat serum. It was dreamed up, literally, by a US doctor called Gary Davis. He saw himself in a dream injecting goats and concluded, as anyone would, that this was a revelation from God that goats can cure HIV.
He developed a serum – injecting HIV into goats to produce antibodies that, if HIV were any old virus, would fight the disease. But it is not: the point about it is – antibodies do not kill it. Davis applied ot the US government for a licence to trial the serum on humans, but was refused. Then in 2000 he came back into the limelight claiming that his business partner, Steve Migliaccio, had stolen 80 litres of the serum. The FDA issued a safety notice about this, warning that it may turn up in the Third World. As late as last year Gary Davis was trying to test the serum in Ghana.
Now some background on Hart Jones. He was in the Rhodesian military and after the fall of Ian Smith ran a private security company for mines all over Africa, employing 300 ex-soldiers. Then he got into financing the brutal military regime of Major Johnny Paul Koroma in Sierra Leone. Read the testimony about him here, at the truth and reconciliation commission website. Then he got involved in the goat serum business. One of the predecessor companies to CARD was called Afrasia Medic Plus. On the board of it was one Steve Migliaccio.
When I asked Hart Jones if the trial he had done in Tanzania had involved serum from Steve Migliaccio he replied “not sure”.
We’re still awaiting a response from the Swaziland High Commission to these allegations and I will post this when it arrives. Senior people in Swaziland’s health system, meanwhile, are furious – and the story is about to break in the Swazi press; so I will keep you updated on that...