Rogue Medicine: Chachoua’s HIV Cure | The Body of Evidence

Rogue Medicine: Chachoua’s HIV Cure


"Nothing great has ever happened in medicine from an institute."

- Dr. Sam Chachoua, who claims to cure cancer and AIDS.


While predicting the future is fraught with peril, I can assure you of this: as long as there are diseases, there will be quacks promising cures.

Bill Maher, whose stances on the pharmaceutical industry and on vaccination are far from secrets, had Dr. Sam Chachoua on Real Time with Bill Maher, January 29, 2016. Dr. Chachoua claims to have cured American actor Charlie Sheen, among many others, of his HIV infection. The ten-minute interview was yet another presentation of the quack as renegade doctor with a magic remedy Big Pharma is hiding from you. The reason he was applauded during his appearance is because this appeal to conspiracy works.

"Independent Medical Researcher"

Maher said during the interview, "Usually, the people who discover something great are individuals. Louis Pasteur, right? Jenner?" To which Chachoua replied with the jaw-dropping quote at the top of the article. They both appeal to this myth of the lone scientist, the prodigal son and scientific genius who, on his own, comes up with a revolutionary cure or intervention. We now recognize and encourage collaborations in science like never before, and that's a good thing. Ideas need to be criticized, fine-tuned, tested, and peer-reviewed before they are accepted; what Maher and Chachoua promote is the elitist and exaggerated notion of a single mind overturning a paradigm. While paradigm shifts may happen once in a while, science generally moves in incremental steps, building upon the collaborative work of teams of scientists. The false notion of the brazen white-coat renegade is necessary to Chachoua, since he is credited on screen as "independent medical researcher", a red flag if there ever was one. 


Stolen Then Buried


An even bigger red flag is Chachoua's claim that major health centres published his own discovery as theirs and failed to follow up on it. He claims to have discovered the cure to HIV in the milk of arthritic goats infected with a different virus, CAEV. He said, "And this virus destroys HIV and protects people who drink it for life." Maher voiced my own question by asking, "So why do only you know this?"

Chachoua says the information is readily available. In the 1990s, Cedars-Sinai and UCLA "courted" him upon seeing his data; they then published it as their own "and buried it". That's right. Cedars-Sinai and UCLA have apparently been sitting on the cure for HIV/AIDS since the 1990s, published it... and then quickly buried it. This behaviour is itself contradictory: either you steal this finding and publish it as your own to garner awards and pharmaceutical money, or you make it go away. Why would you do both?


The Bottomless Bag of Tricks


Far be it for a humble renegade doctor to merely cure one disease; he has to cure them all. After all, he has a business to run.

Toward the end of the interview, Chachoua says he received a letter in 2006 from the small island nation of Comoros (near Madagascar). The author of the letter claimed to have eradicated from the island the Chikungunya virus using Chachoua's vaccines. It should come as no surprise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state the following with regards to the virus: "There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection."

What is particularly insidious is Chachoua's off-hand remark about the Chikungunya virus: "[...] which is kinda like the uh... Zika?" Of course, the Zika virus is making the rounds in the news these days, and he's the man with a potential cure. He doesn't say it explicitly; but if he's cured one disease like it, might we not want to contact him in this time of great need?


The Harm


Skeptics are often asked to define the harm caused by believing in things for which there is no solid evidence.

Dr. Sam Chachoua was on The Dr. Oz Show. In May 2015, the show reached 1.8 million viewers. Real Time with Bill Maher was getting 4 million viewers sixteen months ago. These are sizeable audiences who are exposed to pseudomedical nonsense and dangerous promises.

The harm is in stopping medical care to pursue unfounded alternatives. The harm is in secretly adding "complementary" remedies that may interfere with treatment. The harm is in raising money from friends, relatives, coworkers, and sympathetic donors on the Internet to go to another country and pay a renegade doctor tens of thousands of dollars for something that does not work.

These scammers, who may be deluding themselves as well as their patients, have trademark signs. They are hostile to the pharmaceutical industry. They report attacks on their lives and assorted threats to feed a persecution complex. They rely almost exclusively on testimonials and rarely if ever publish in the peer-reviewed medical literature. They use the Galileo gambit ("They laughed at Galileo, because he was ahead of his time... turns out, he was right!").

The good news is that these rogues have usually been criticized on the Internet by medical doctors, scientists, and skeptics. Be sure to seek these sources when in doubt.

If a cure sounds too good to be true, it probably is.