Last weekend the Egyptian Armed Forces came with remarkable news: they claimed to have developed devices for detection of the Hepatitis C Virus and HIV. Furthermore Major General dr. Abdel Atti told the Egyptian people that after 22 years of research his team has now a machine that can even cure HIV/AIDS. During the press conference in which he announced this, he made this rather peculiar statement:
We conquered AIDS and I take the AIDS from the Patient and return it to him as Kofta “meat balls”
Here is the video with English subtitles:
The hashtag #koftagate was soon born on Twitter, a clear indication that many Egyptians don’t believe a thing the man said. And they are right. I was glad to see that presidential scientific advisor Essam Heggy soon spoke of a scientific scandal. On the website Egyptian Chronicles I found quite a good summary of events up till now.
The story of Abdel Atti gets more silly by the day it seems. After last weekend he said he had been offered two billion dollar for his cure by a farmaceutical company but that he declined the offer to make sure that the Egyptian people would profit from this invention alone. The Economist has more on the background of Abdel Atti:
Investigations by local reporters appear to show that Mr Abdel Atti received his general’s rank not through military service, but as an honorary title. As recently as last year he appeared as a faith healer on religious satellite channels and had previously made an income as a private consultant in herbal medicine. An article in a Saudi newspaper in 2009 mentions him in connection with charges of sorcery.
See below for an update.
Abdel Atti also shows a lack of humor as he is threatening to take a comedian Bassem Youssef to court who made fun of his invention on television. [update: check the blog by @mostafa for more info on this]
The real doctor who plays a role in these events is dr. Gamal Shiha. He was the center figure in the row over the dowsing rod in the Guardian last year and published an artice in a dubiuous scientific journal in which he presents ‘impressive’ results with the dowsing rod (read my previous blog on this). Shiha showed up first at CNN. From his remarks one could get the impression that he had finally seen that he had misled himself with these detectors:
“What has been said is not scientifically disciplined. There is nothing published, and there is nothing in medical conferences, and there is no single eminent professor around the project,” Shiha told CNN. “Nothing scientifically relevant has been said.”
However a day later at The Guardian he was quoted as follows:
Gamal Shiha, head of the Association for Liver Patients Care, one of Egypt’s prominent centres that worked alongside with the military, said he was angry about the “hasty” announcements. He said only one of the devices – C-Fast – underwent thorough testing.
Shiha said the C-Fast uses electromagnetic frequencies similar to those used in bomb detectors and radars and had been tested on more than 2,000 patients with a high success rate. “The technology of C-Fast is effective without doubt,” he said. However, he dismissed the claims that the other two devices detect Aids and cure viruses.
So he really thinks this dowsing rod works and only denounces the new machines (I-FAST and CCD).
|Update March 2nd 2014: in a second post on Egyptian Chronicles there’s more background on Abdel Atti: #KoftaGate : Dr. Strangelove or Trust Me I am a Doctor “Chapter-2”Just some quotes: “It turns out that Major General Ibrahim Abdel Atti is herbs therapist who used to appear in religious TV channels to promote his medicine , treatment and etc”, “he had a clinic in Haram that was closed by ministry of health in 2000 and another one Maadi but closed it recently for some legal reasons” and “he is a not a Major General in the army but rather an Assigned Major General which means he is not a member of the armed forces.”
In the current situaton in Egypt this issue is immediately drawn into the dispute between supporters of the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Politics is all over the place: ”No comment from the army regarding this revelation at all. In fact all the Pro-Military kept and are defending madly Ibrahim and so called miraculous treatment.”