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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: AIDS 'Cure' Is a Case of Bad Ethics




The case of the miracle AIDS cure is a tragic pairing of bad medicine and even worse ethics. Armenikum, the "wonder" elixir touted by the Armenian government as a one-stop remedy for HIV infection, is apparently anything but.


One of the first patients to be treated with the drug, 20-year-old Nikolai Kolesnikov, was pronounced cured within weeks of his initial treatment in June, but has since seen his virus count skyrocket. According to Manfred Dietrich, the German doctor who examined him in mid-October, the drug has not only not cured his condition, it has exacerbated it. Dietrich says Armenikum's short-term inhibitor effects will in the long term run down Kolesnikov's immune system faster than the infection, untreated, would have itself.


Yet Armenikum continues to enjoy a healthy reputation in the information-poor former CIS, with HIV patients reportedly flowing into Armenia, desperate to sample the drug. How many more people will sign up for Armenikum treatment before the drug is publicly scrutinized? Alarming questions have arisen, but the Armenian Interior Ministry - which, rather than the Health Ministry or other medical experts, controls information on the drug - seems in no hurry to have light shed on its dubious discovery.


The ministry, which submitted the drug for review with only one Western doctor, Dietrich, has orchestrated a near-total press blackout. The only people with access to Armenikum, it seems, are the unwitting patients who continue to dole out money for it.


In many ways, Komsomolskaya Pravda is even more to blame. As Kolesnikov's official patron, the newspaper has erred not once but twice - first by sponsoring his treatment and second by grossly misreporting his case.


In June 1994, a congress of Russian journalists formally adopted a professional code of ethics. Among the tenets: "[The journalist] will strive as hard as he can to avoid damage ... caused by incompleteness or inaccuracy, the deliberate concealing of socially important information, or the dissemination of information known to be false."


But within 18 days of Kolesnikov's first day of treatment, the KP reporter covering the event for the paper pronounced the patient fully healed and heralded the arrival of an astounding scientific breakthrough.


The paper, which claims it has continued to foot all of Kolesnikov's travel and accommodation bills throughout his longer-than-expected ordeal, has been less forthcoming aboutits poster boy's current state. There has been little said about Dietrich's diagnosis in Germany or Kolesnikov's recent KP-sponsored return to Yerevan for more of a treatment that may potentially kill him. Nor has there been a retraction of Armenikum's glowing review. Is this the pursuit of truth?