HIV Scotland have won their battle against social media posts advertising fake herbal cures for the disease.

The charity’s chief executive hit out at Facebook last week after the organisation’s own page was blighted by posts targeting vulnerable people with herbal medication.

The posts advertised herbs which claimed to cure HIV within seven days, and cost hundreds of pounds to buy – with no evidence that they were effective against the disease at all.

Nathan Sparling argued that the spam posts were detrimental to the health of those living with HIV, as they were being encouraged to buy ineffective herbs rather than visit a doctor.

He also said those behind the spam marketing were preying on people with HIV, mining their information and using it to target others.

The charity had been reporting the false adverts, which had been left as reviews on its own Facebook page, for years as they were unable to delete them themselves. It then emerged people who were members of genuine HIV support groups were being referred to other groups selling the false cures for extortionate prices.

Mr Sparling wrote to the Scottish and UK Governments to ask them for help, with both agreeing that more action had to be taken by social media platforms to target the problem of false information.

After the issue was highlighted by The Herald, Facebook agreed to meet with the charity chief and has helped to ban the posts for good on its own page.

Numerous pages, profiles and posts advertising the false medicine have been removed from the site too for breaching its policies on fraud and deception, and it has committed to exploring how it can address similar issues in future, as part of its review into community standards on the platform.

Facebook said it was constantly evolving when it comes to misinformation and has been investing heavily in an attempt to stop the flow of false news, and promote high-quality journalism.

Mr Sparling said the news was welcome, and a “win” for the HIV community across the globe.

He said: “Facebook have done a lot to prevent misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19, and I am happy with the outcome of our meeting that they will review all current ‘herbal HIV cure’ posts on their platform, and review their moderation policies to ensure that such posts can be removed in future due to the harmful consequences of believing fake news about a herbal cure.

“This is a win for our global HIV community who are fighting against stigma and misinformation – and Facebook can and should play their part in ensuring that information on their platform is scientifically proven and evidence based.”

He said that while the intention as not to limit a discussion about potential cures for HIV, the damage the posts were potentially causing to vulnerable people searching for help was unacceptable.

He explained: “Clearly we would not want to prevent any discussion about a potential HIV cure, that may come in the future, but the promotion of a fake ‘herbal cure’ is very dangerous and I’m glad that the current posts, and future policies will be reviewed to ensure Facebook can be a safe platform for people who may be vulnerable to misinformation and ‘fake cures.

“This is proof that small charities can have a global impact; and HIV Scotland is delighted to continue with successful campaigns that will help us on the way to end new HIV transmissions, prevent HIV-related deaths and end the scourge of HIV-related stigma & misinformation for good.”

A spokesman for Facebook said: “We are grateful to HIV Scotland for discussing their concerns with us. We have provided them with practical advice on how to manage their Page which should help, and we're continuing to explore what steps we could take to address these issues as part of our ongoing work to review our Community Standards.”