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tv   Witness History Health Special  BBC News  June 9, 2022 1:30am-2:00am BST

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hello, and welcome to witness history, with me, pumza fihlani, here in johannesburg. this time, we'll be getting first—hand accounts from five important moments in the history of healthcare. coming up — how, in the 19705, chinese scientists used an ancient herbal remedy to find a cure for malaria. the german psychiatrist who first identified alzheimer's disease. and pakistan's angel of mercy, abdul sattar edhi, whose charity provides healthcare to millions. but we start here in south africa, where, in the late 1990s, cases of hiv and aids soared. by 1998, almost 3 million south africans were infected, and aids was the leading cause of death in the country. yet, antiretroviral drugs were too expensive for all but the richest south africans.
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activists began a long campaign for the right to import and use cheaper versions of the vital drugs. building coffins is a quiet ritual here. aids kills like clockwork in this area. it is a production line of death. from, really, the mid—1990s, hiv in south africa exploded. at one point, about 1,000 hiv—related deaths every single day, so it was a catastrophe, it really was. azt retrovir was the first drug to work against aids. really, in the middle of the 1990s, a class of medicines become available which could stop people dying of aids. we saw what they were doing in other countries in the world, but they were too expensive, so they held out this hope, but this hope was something that we could not reach and the deaths continued. so in 1997, the government amended a law, and the aim of this amendment was to give
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government more power to make medicines more affordable. many of these children have been orphaned by aids and in this soweto hospice, others have the hiv virus. the legislation the government is trying to bring in is intended to help many children like these. the government says it wants to be able to import cheaper generic versions of well— known drugs, but the pharmaceutical companies says that threatens their pattens, and endangers new research. almost as soon as government introduced this new law, 39 very powerful pharmaceutical companies went to court to stop this law from being passed. instead of simply copying our drugs, why don't they innovate the next range of hiv medicines, and why don't they do it quicker than us, faster than us, better than us and cheaper than us? clearly, it's not that easy. and for three years, the law was stuck because of this legal action. so when we formed the treatment action campaign, we decided to go and get our own lawyers to join the south african government in its effort
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to bring this law into force, and we were successful. the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have bowed to heavy pressure and dropped their court action against south africa importing cheap copies of their aids drugs. we thought we'd won! unfortunately, our government had a different idea because our president, president mbeki, had begun questioning whether hiv caused aids. it's the misunderstanding about the science of this question. and so, they did not make these drugs available, even though they could now afford to make the drugs available through our public health service. so, the victory was almost nullified and our struggle had to continue. six months later, we were back on the streets, we were protesting, we had to launch a new court case — this time against our government — over the question of access to drugs that prevent mother—to—child hiv the intervention was so simple and so cheap...
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a single tablet of nevirapine, which costs about 10 rand, can save children from hiv. it was as simple as this to prevent a new hiv infection and to save a life. and injuly of 2002, the constitutional court ordered the government to supply these medicines to pregnant women who had hiv. the steps that have to be taken to comply with the order that we make should be taken without delay. it was another very, very emotional moment, and after we'd won, we were in a much stronger position to say that these medicines should be made available to any person who had hiv or aids in our country, to save their lives as well. 20 years later, and i can say to you that our struggle probably saved 5 million lives because today, 5.5 million people have access to antiretroviral medicine, and you can put that down to the struggles we waged in those years to make this a right for all people. mark heywood on the struggle
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for affordable drugs. now to china, where, in the 19705, the antimalarial drug artemisinin was developed by a small team of scientists. one of the scientists, professor lang linfu, spoke to witness history about the breakthrough. mosquito buzzes. one of man's mortal enemies. 90% of all malaria cases are in africa. in the americas and in asia, malaria has re—emerged in drug—resistant forms. translation: in the 19605 and early '705, there - was a serious outbreak of malaria. the drug available at the time was chloroquine, but resistance to it was already very strong. chairman mao said the population of china has survived for thousands of years relying on traditional chinese medicine. he said there must be a traditional cure for malaria.
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he told us to find it. could a drug based on an ancient chinese herbal remedy really defeat malaria? translation: in 1969, l i was assigned to research a cure for malaria and the great chemist, tu youyou, was our leader. i had malaria myself when i was a child. it makes you feel really cold — your whole body shivers — then you get a fever and a terrible headache. it's very painful. there was no money for this research because the whole country had economic problems. most of our equipment was old. we only had a few basics, like test tubes and bottles. tu youyou had already made
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a list of all the chinese herbal medicines for treating malaria that were recorded in ancient books and folklore. we tested hundreds of herbal remedies, over and over again, until our focus was drawn to just the one — sweet wormwood, or artemisia annua. we knew it was relatively effective, but it was inconsistent, so we had to work out why. tu youyou had a breakthrough. she went back to the ancient texts and found a description in ge hong's medical handbook. it's hundreds of years old. it said, "take a handful of sweet wormwood, immerse "it in water, then ring out the juice and drink it all". and this gave her the idea to try a cold method of extracting the medicinal properties from the plant.
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we conducted 190 experiments using this plant, and it was the 191st that worked. we couldn't believe our eyes! everyone was so excited! all our hard work had finally paid off! tu youyou said, "i'm the leader of the team. "i should be the first to try this medicine." and i also volunteered. i said, "we should not expect other people to test "whether it is dangerous". so, we tested the drug over several days and the result was we all felt fine. there were no bad side effects, except that the pill itself didn't taste very nice. this 11—year—old boy has the disease, so, he is given his first dose of artemisinin. the next morning, the artemisinin has worked. a gift from traditional chinese medicine. it's saved millions of lives
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all over the world. next to pakistan, where, in the 19505, abdul sattar edhi opened a small dispensary in karachi, giving away free medication to the poor. his wife, bilquis, shared his passion for charity and together, they opened more than 300 health clinics, they trained thousands of nurses and set up a nationwide ambulance service. bilquis edhi remembers the moment she first met her husband when she was training to become a nurse. abdul sattar edhi is perhaps pakistan's most well—respected figure. for some, he is nothing less than a saint.
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for the last 60 years, he's dedicated his life to helping others. translation: it is everyone's responsibility to take care - of others — that's what being human means. translation: mr edhi was a very good man. | he used to say, "there is no greater religion "than humanity". the foundation he started is now one of the biggest welfare organisations anywhere in the world. i first met edhi when i was studying to be a nurse. pakistan was still a new country then, and there were very few medical facilities. it was on this very spot that edhi set up his first small pharmacy, dispensing free medication. later, it grew to a clinic and i came to learn midwifery. my mother wanted me to be a doctor, but that required too much studying for me. i loved nursing. 0riginally, edhi wanted to marry our head nurse, but she kept refusing him.
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then, he proposed to me, but i didn't refuse. no—one thought the marriage would work because he was so much older than me. everyone said, "ah, it will only last a couple "of months" but allah kept us together for more than 50 years. when we got married, we only had one ambulance. we'd go out to attend patients or bring them back here. once the word got out that we were helping people, more started to arrive. we had to build an extension in the clinic to manage. edhi was shocked that some doctors would only treat people from their own communities. he would say, "if a christian or hindu comes here in need "of help, give them even more respect than you would to one
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"of your own," and when they have their religious festivals, we stand with them and celebrate their happiness. like christmas — i send them sweets, or cakes, and gifts — and all our hindu colleagues are given days off to celebrate diwali, holi. wejoin in and share the fun. a lot of people used to criticise edhi for that, but he would say, "opposition and criticism is important." "negativity shows us the right way forward." now, we've got about 300 health centres. we try and spread out our ambulance stations so that our ambulance crews can get to the patients quickly. edhi was also passionate about children. we set up orphanages and a safe way for young women to leave a baby if she can't keep it. girls get pregnant and need our help. human beings do make mistakes. i do worry that while charities like the edhi foundation do
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the work, the government won't take responsibility for healthcare. it is our bad luck that we have never had a good government, but our country is good. my husband inspired others to donate to charity. they saw his good work and wanted to help. he had true intentions, and when he thought we could do no more, god helped us to keep going. edhi said, "everything is in this world." "if you do good deeds, then that is heaven." i think that's why he was always so happy. sadly, bilquis edhi, who was known as the �*mother of 0rphans' for her role in saving thousands of abandoned children in pakistan, died in
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april, 2022. remember, you can watch witness history every month on bbc news channel, or you can catch up on all our other films, as well as more than 1,000 radio programmes, in our online archive. head to: next, in 1901, the german psychologist dr alois alzheimer treated a 51—year—old woman who had developed a type of dementia. the illness he discovered became known as alzheimer's disease. witness history spoke to professor konrad maurer, who first discovered dr alzheimer's original long—lost case files. alois alzheimer, he was a doctor, a physician in the psychiatric hospital in frankfurt in 1888, and he was obsessed, you know,
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from the idea that psychiatric diseases are like other diseases, are diseases of the body, in this case of the brain, and i have to find a case where i can prove this. and the first case, actually, was auguste deter. she was 51. she was a normal housewife. suddenly, out of the sky, in 1901, she gotjealous and then, she got forgetful, and was also very loud, and cried. alois alzheimer said, "that is my case". he wrote a very detailed case history, how he saw auguste deter for the first time, but this case file had been lost and nobody knew exactly where it could be.
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we went into the archive and, suddenly, we found this file laying somewhere, and that was the file of auguste deter. the file must have laid there for about 70 years or even more, and nobody detected it. and it was a wonderful feeling to have this file in our hands. all his questions are documented by himself within this file, with his handwriting. she sits on the bed with a helpless expression. what is your name? auguste. what is your husband's name? auguste, i think. she looks as if she didn't understand the question. i show her a pencil, a pen, a purse, key, diary and cigarare identified correctly.
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when she has to write "mrs auguste d", she writes "mrs...", and we must repeat the other words, because she forgets them. the patient is not able to progress in writing, and repeats, "i have lost myself". she lived very, very long — about five years, or even more — was kept very long in the hospital, and when she died, the brain had been examined immediately after her death. alzheimer did many, many slices, and we can still look through the microscope and see — and that is the most important sign of what he found within the brain of auguste — the reason of this disease, of this dementia, is the deposition of plaques and neurofibrils. we still think this
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is the reason for the disease. unfortunately, we have many, many affected persons worldwide and we did not yet find the corresponding therapy. but we hope that, in the following years, this will take place. professor konrad maurer there, on the first patient to be diagnosed with alzheimer's. we end off in post—second world war britain, where the common cold unit was created to find a cause for the illness. its work depended on thousands of volunteers coming to the unit to catch a common cold. given food, accommodation, even pocket money, many volunteers regarded it as a holiday, and came back year after year. witness history spoke to professor nigel dimmock, who worked at the unit. the unique aspect of the common cold unit
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was the volunteer set—up. they had come to catch a cold. it's a crazy thing, really, but people did. let's have you back on the bed. so this is the virus, then, and we are going to put it into your nose. it did give us the ability to study a virus in its natural host, and this is still a very rare thing. the common cold unit was set up by the medical research council after the second world war to try and discover the cause of the common cold, because the number of working hours lost through people catching colds and taking time off was enormous in terms of the productivity of the nation as a whole. the common cold unit advertised for people to come there in a voluntary status.
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they were only paid pocket money and rail fare and their keep while they were there, and they lived at salisbury for about ten days. archive: these bright, | young people are starting a holiday at government expense. so they would come and be divided up into two sets — those which were infected, and those which got a placebo. so it was a good deal, because the chances of getting a cold were pretty slim. they could read, they could play chess, they could study wild flowers, they could practice the violin, they could write their novel — and believe me, people did all these things, and many much stranger! they have all different motivations. some students come for studying, and we have a large body of housewives who just come for a great rest. yes, this is my third visit. i it is a very relaxing holiday. people did meet, and there were these lovely stories of these romances. people could talk to each other, but they had to stay ten
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yards apart, you know. ten yards was the magic distance over which the common cold virus couldn't jump. 18,000 volunteers are now believed to have spent time in isolation at the unit, but a cold cure remains elusive. about the time that i joined the unit, they discovered how to grow the virus in cell culture, and then the science took off. it turned out that there wasn't one common cold virus, but hundreds of them, and that makes vaccines very difficult. certain myths were tested as well. for instance, if you went out in the cold — particularly in the rain in the cold — this predisposed you to catching colds. there was no evidence at all that any of these things affected the instance of a cold. in the end, the common cold unit was closed for economic reasons. i think it was a big
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loss, scientifically, and because of the volunteer set—up, such facilities are very valuable, and there are very few of them. little squirts into each nostril... a cure for the common cold? people are looking still. commercially, it is still a very attractive opposition. nobody has yet managed to find one, but we will always be optimistic. professor nigel dimmock on why thousands went on holiday to catch a cold. and that is all for this special edition of witness history, from here injohannesburg. we will be back soon with more first—hand accounts of extraordinary moments in history, but for now, from me, pumza fihlani, and the rest of the witness history team, it's goodbye.
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good morning. wednesday was certainly a day of contrasting conditions. if you managed to keep the sunshine, you also had some warmth. it was very pleasant out there. in fact, we saw a high of 23.5 celsius in london through wednesday afternoon. but there were some showers, and if you got caught in one or two of them, you would certainly know about it. they were heavy with hail and thunder at times. in fact, if we take a look back at wednesday, we had some fairly persistent rain throughout the day moving through central and northern scotland and a cluster of showers piling in behind. some of those, as i say, heavy and thundery. those showers tending to fade away as we speak, and we keep some clear skies over the next few hours across central and southern england, a little bit of nuisance cloud further north with an odd isolated shower. but it will be a relatively mild start to thursday morning, temperatures holding up, 10—12 celsius. the best of the sunshine certainly across central
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and southern parts of england first thing in the morning. we'll see cloud and light, patchy rain gathering in from the west. that's going to drift its way steadily eastwards, so eventually the sunshine being nibbled away with cloud as it moves its way steadily eastwards. we'll keep some light rain and some misty, murky conditions along west—facing coasts, the highest temperatures where we see the best of the sunshine — 22 degrees, 72 fahrenheit. and it's certainly worth bearing in mind if you are a hay fever sufferer that where we've got that sunshine, grass pollen is now reaching its peak, so very high levels of pollen expected through the course of the afternoon. so, if we move out of thursday into friday, we've got this area of low pressure. it is the ex—tropical storm alex, the remnants of that storm bringing some windy conditions to the far north and west but also some warmth, as it's a south—westerly wind to go with it. so we keep a cluster of showers and winds perhaps gusting in excess of 40—50 mph in exposed coasts. but across much of england and wales, with some sunshine coming through, a breezy afternoon but warm with it. we could see highs of 23 degrees.
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that low pressure just drifts to the north of scotland, so we still keep the squeeze in the isobars, the strongest of the winds here, but high pressure is starting to build in from the southwest, calming things down quite nicely. so, yes, some showers to the north and west and still a fresh breeze to contend with, but an improving picture as we go through the weekend.
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welcome to bbc news, i'm simon pusey. our top stories: gun control measures are once again approved by the us house of representatives, but they're unlikely to become law. it comes after a harrowing day of testimony. he shot my friend and a thought he was gonna come back to the room so they got the blood and i've put it all over me. renewed bombardment of ukraine's second largest city, kharkiv, as severodonetsk in the donbas region also comes under heavy fire. president biden arrives to open the summit of the americas in los angeles, and steps straight into controversy.
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and on his first trip to the democratic republic


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