ADVANCING THE POTENTIAL OF HERBAL PRODUCTS FOR HIV/AIDS IN SOUTH AFRICA: SCIENCE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Gail D. Hughes and Oluwaseyi M. Aboyade
South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa
Africa is known for herbal products for treatment of an array of conditions/diseases and some of these products have been substantiated through in vivo and in vitro studies. However, compared to traditional Chinese Medicine, limited African herbal medicines have undergone human clinical studies/trials.
Within the South African context, widespread dependence on traditional medicine is due to accessibility, affordability and cultural acceptance of traditional medicine in conjunction with conventional medicine. In South Africa, a platform is being created to study the efficacy and safety of medicinal plants used in the treatment and management of HIV/AIDS. Through the collaborative efforts of academia and government agencies, Phase I and II studies on the safety and efficacy of Sutherlandia frutescens in early stage HIV patients are being conducted. S. frutescens is one of the commonly used medicinal plants by HIV-infected individuals in South Africa and it is commercially marketed as an immune booster. Using reverse pharmacology, we validate existing knowledge through clinical studies. This investigation is in accordance with internationally accepted conventions for the evaluation of traditional medicines that historically have been used to treat human ailments by indigenous communities.
This innovative collaborative project is advancing the science while enhancing the capacity of Africa in drug discovery and innovation to combat HIV/AIDS on the continent. It also highlights the importance of collaborations among academia, governmental agencies and industry. Drug discovery through reverse pharmacology on herbal medicines will provide inexpensive and rapid source of new drugs or leads in resource constrained countries, with accessibility and acceptability by consumers.