By PUDENCIANA TEMBA, 20th April 2011 @ 09:45 DAILY NEWS HEALTH experts have expressed concern over the government silence on the potency of the 'miracle' herbal concoction being administered by retired pastor Ambilikile Mwaisapile at Samunge Village in Loliondo that is said to be capable of curing a cocktail of ailments including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. A consultant with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Benet Fimbo, told a meeting to disseminate Health Sector HIV/AIDS Communication Strategy in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday that the silence on the curative properties of the herb was a time bomb which will heavily impact on the ongoing efforts to combat the disease in the country. Dr Fimbo, a former head of Information and Communication at the National Aids Control Programme (NACP), said the silence has left a gap for various parties to communicate wrong information to People Living with AIDS (PLWA) some of whom have abandoned the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) much to their own peril. "The issue is not about the toxicity of the herb used by Rev Mwaisapile, but the scientific proof that it cures the disease," he said adding that Rev. Mwaisapile has been quoted several times by media telling people to continue using ARVs even after taking the 'Loliondo Cup'. Dr Fimbo said the silence will have serious implication on the disease itself, the health sector, the country's economy and scientists will stand to be blamed for failure to raise alarm on the need for scientific proof. "I don't have any problem with Rev Mwaisapile and what he is doing but scientists should play their part to enable the people get the correct message across," he said. He was supported by a participant who preferred anonymity but told the forum that he was working in a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre (VCT) in Dar es s Salaam who said the centres were now being flooded by people seeking to test for the virus. "Previously PLWA were coming to check for their CD4 counts but a good number are now seeking HIV status service and they keep changing centres," he told a meeting attended by health communicators from the ministry, the regions and the media. Dr Fimbo said the large number of people checking for the virus with a view to see if they have been cured will impact the testing kits. He said those who have stopped taking ARVs and decide to resume when things go wrong might develop resistance and might end up dying. NACP Manager, Dr Angela Ramadhani said her institution was consulting other relevant stakeholders with the view to come up with a statement and a relevant message on the issue. The one-day meeting attended by over 30 participants was organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The Minister for Health and Social welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda, has repeatedly stated that the government has not said the "Loliondo Cup" was capable of curing HIV, diabetes and various other diseases. On April 6, Dr Mponda insisted that the Loliondo herbal concoction dispensed by Rev, Mwaisapile has yet to be endorsed contrary to some media reports. "All we said is that initial tests have proved that the herbal drink issued by Pastor Mwaisapile was not toxic and thus fit for human consumption, but that does not mean the potion has been gazetted," said the minister. Dr Mponda was speaking in Arusha on the sidelines of the 25th Joint Scientific Conference organized by the National Institute for Medical Reaserch (NIMR). The herbal cure which attracts thousands of people on daily basis to the remote Samunge village of Digo-Digo Ward in Ngorongoro District, has been billed by its inventor as an 'all-in-one' remedy. The Minister said tests on the herb conducted by NIMR, Tanzania Foods and Drugs Authority and the Chief Government Chemist were simply aimed at ensuring the safety of its consumers. "This is a very sensitive matter and media should not mislead people, the fact that we said the 'Loliondo' herbal concoction was not toxic, should not be taken as if my ministry had admitted that the herbal cocktail was an effective remedy," he stressed. Dr Mponda said NIMR and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences were still working on the follow-up tests for the herbal 'cure' to determine its potency and that their report was yet to be released. NIMR Chief Dr Mwele Malecela, said although medical experts and researchers have been studying traditional medicine for years, the recent issue of Loliondo and the uproar caused made them realize that the sector was becoming an important branch of medicine.