Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said recently he has discovered a cure for the disease, but the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization said proof is lacking.
In a joint statement, the groups said they "strongly encourage the Gambia to collaborate with international experts on efforts to assess the safety, efficacy and quality of the therapeutic intervention, according to standard practices in any product development."
Calling for an "evidence-based" response to the disease, the agencies urged HIV-infected individuals not to discontinue anti-retroviral treatment in favor of the unproven treatment.
"Herbal remedies cannot take the place of comprehensive treatment and care for people living with HIV," the statement said. Discontinuing anti-retroviral therapy "will lead to very serious adverse effects, and even death."
A better bet, they added, is continuing efforts to achieve access to anti-retrovirals for all those who need them. Since 2003, access to the treatments in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 2 percent to 23 percent.
The purported cure developed by Jammah, a former military officer, is made of a combination of herbs. The U.N. envoy to the Gambia was expelled after she urged Gambians to continue their standard treatment until Jammah's cure could be tested by international experts.