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Uganda: bee venom therapy as an alternative medicine

Visuals of bees in Uganda.   -  
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Mariam Nantaba is living with HIV. She's been using bee venom as a therapy for a year and claims it has significantly improved her health.

" It has helped me alot especially in boosting my immunity, the CD4 count on my viral load is up which wasn't the case before and my skin also looks good"

Bee venom is a clear colorless liquid produced by a sting barb from a bee. Simon Turner , proprietor of Malaika Honey says the the venom is collected using an electrified trap.

"We basically have a machine with an activation board, we send low electric current through the wires and what happens when the bees hit the wires they get a little shock... and sting through to the glass...and the sting releases the poison onto the glass.

Beekeepers make some very bold claims about what a mixture of venom and selected plant extracts can treat.

"It helps us with those aging issues, if there are cancer cells forming out in the body without your knowledge those cancer cells will die, if you have poor appetite, it increases your appetite, it induces sleep, pain killer and it improves your skin looks." explains venom collector Tadeo Balisanga  

But there is little scientific proof to back up any of these claims and little in the way of traditional evidence based research about the long term benefits of bee venom therapies. 

Accordig to Patrick Tumussiime, Uganda's Commissioner at the National Disease Control, " this thing is not standardised and each one is doing it differently, supposing somebody is tempted to think let me put in more venom so that it works better...we don't know the effects it can cause." 

Bee venom extract is used around the world to help those with severe allergies to bee and wasp stings. Tiny, but increasing amounts are injected to help patients become desensitised to stings that could otherwise kill them.

Despite the warnings about it's wider use, bee venom treatments are growing in popularity in Uganda.

Atuhaire Scondina is using it to manage pain and mobility issues. 

"This honey product has helped me so much because my fingers were paralyzed and I my knees could support well to walk but since I started taking the bee venom I can now do my tailoring work which was previously difficult"

And to meet the growing demand, bee keepers as Adolf Bagonza says they are stepping up production.

"We produce two hundred grams of venom per month and we market it locally by mixing it in honey and eating it orally."

But doctors are warning consumers of bee venom against self medication.

"When using bee venom the caution should be put on the amount that you are taking in, Ideally I would advise you to consult with a medic or someone professional about it to advise you how much you should take in for the condition that you want to treat" , Jackie Nanyonjo - Doctor

Despite the lack of proof, people like Nantaba are convinced that bee venom therapy remains an important part of their treatment, for years to come.

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