As intrepid Guardian Bad Science columnist (and general woo-bashing meister) Ben Goldacre wrote recently, by and large there is nothing wrong with people seeking reassurance, a kind word or two and a sugar pill, provided homeopathic practitioners stick to giving out "remedies" for the self-limiting, transient and we-don't-know-what's-causing-your-symptoms-but-this-will-make-you-feel-better type of condition they traditionally stick to. Leaving aside for a moment the issue of whether or not the NHS should fund the prescription of sugar pills, many in the medical and scientific establishment see homeopathy as a largely harmless side-show.
Not so in all cases, it seems. It seems the Society for Homeopaths is organising a symposium on the role of homeopathy in AIDS. Here, we are told, we will learn about the
Maun Homeopathy Project in ... This innovative project offers free homeopathy outreach clinics in an area where over 35% of the people are infected with HIV or AIDS (emphasis added)
a completely different and controversial treatment for AIDS in Africa using a new
set of healing remedies created by Peter Chappell (emphasis added).
let's be clear. The Society for Homeopaths is endorsing free clinics in an abjectly poor country, where anything seen as free healthcare provision is likely to be snapped up in the face of unaffordable "conventional" treatment. They also endorse healing remedies from a certain Peter Chappell. Goldacre covered Chappell's eccentric leanings as part of last week's Bad Science column, and Chappell's response revealed plenty about the man himself and the profession he belongs to. Or perhaps, the story of what happened next is more intriguing...
The response has been removed from Chappelll's website, as reported by Blue Wode on the Bad Science forum. Meanwhile, adamcreen unearthed more dangerous, unsubstantiated crackpot-ery (comment 27 here). according to vitalremedies.com (Chappell's company, founded by names familiar to those of you that read the SoH flier above), which now links to a "new" response to Ben's criticisms (just as laughable), there are several "cancer-related remedies in pill form" available.
In summary then, homeopaths, with apparent backing of their "professional body," are promoting homeopathic remedies for AIDS and cancer. Dangerous as this is at the best of times, doing so to ill-educated and desperately poor folks in Africa is nothing short of immoral IMHO. vitalremedies.com attempts to skirt around the clear legal impediment to advertising cures for cancer by placing the catalogue of cancer remedies behind a login requirement aimed at professional homeopaths, thereby presumably taking advantage of amendments to the Cancer Act - NB i am not a lawyer, thought on whether this constitutes a likely contravention on the law are very, very welcome.
Let us hope that very few vulnerable sufferers of either cancer or AIDS allow themselves to be taken in by all this, although sadly many more than we may think may already have done so.