via ARV default blamed on false prophecies – DailyNews Live 6 October 2014 by Wendy Muperi
HARARE – Government should formulate a tough law to punish churches as thousands of HIV/Aids patients defaulted on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment after receiving false healing prophecies, HIV activists have said.
Sebastian Chinhaire, national chairman of the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV (ZNNP+), said Aids-related mortality is increasing due to false prophecies, and reiterated that there was still no cure for HIV.
“The issue of healing in churches is a serious concern for us at a time we thought we were moving towards zero Aids-related deaths,” he said. “Many people are dying.
“They are told you can go get tested to prove healing. The truth is ARVs can suppress the HIV virus to a level where it cannot be detected but it does not mean it is not there and once you start defaulting, it multiplies again.
“Government should come up with a statutory instrument which can then be used to hold such prophets to account.”
Official data shows that about 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people are Christians, with at least 1,2 million people living positively with HIV. At least half are on treatment.
Although national statistics on defaulters are scarce, Health and Child Care Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) coordinator, Angela Mushavi, recently said religious beliefs have become a barrier to ART adherence.
She said government has already started engaging religious leaders over the issue.
Chinhaire said church leaders should find other ways of attracting audiences than putting people’s lives at risk.
“The danger is when you want to revert to treatment; you then have to be on second line drugs which are expensive and difficult to access,” he said.
“Most of such people are dying anyway. Religion is powerful and defaulting patients become so adamant.”
Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activists Union (Zhaau) secretary-general, Stanley Takaona, said such incidences are a direct intrusion into HIV therapy guidelines and the medical profession, which deserves the attention of lawmakers.
“People are desperate and the faith healers are abusing desperate people to market their churches, which is wrong,” he said. “They should stop to interfering with other trades and global guidelines.”
Emmanuel Gasa, the Aids and Arts Foundation (Taaf) director, said such practices are happening across religions.
“Such over dependency on the doctrine is there everywhere, both in Pentecostal and Apostolic churches,” Gasa said. “Such leaders should be able to be taken to a court of law.”