Prayer is good, prayer and medication is better!

Pastor Elizabeth was told that prayer was all she needed to fight HIV, she stopped taking her medication after faith leaders insisted she cease taking anti-HIV and life saving drugs.  She wrestled with the decision and is now an advocate for taking medication.  She says “If you are sick, and someone tells you not to take medication, they are misleading you.  Pastor Elizabeth realises this and wishes to share that HIV is simply an illness which requires medication.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the early eighties, some faith leaders preached that only ‘sinners’ contracted the virus, advising that the only solution for those living with HIV was to pray hard for forgiveness. While many faith leaders have since realised that HIV is simply a virus that can affect anyone, unfortunately some haven’t. In fact, a few have gone even further, telling those in their congregations who are living with HIV to stop taking their Antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and instead concentrate on praying because that’s the only way they will experience emotional and physical healing.

Whether praying to be healed from HIV is being preached in select churches, or some church-goers living with HIV are misinterpreting what their faith leaders are telling them, a number of HIV positive people have died as a result of stopping their HIV medication. What remains unclear is how many people are being converted to this way of thinking. Is this a big problem warranting a global intervention, or are we making a mountain out of a molehill? I personally don’t know the definitive answers to these questions, but what I can say is that where prayer and HIV healing are concerned, I have witnessed and have heard of some pretty bizarre behaviour among people living with HIV, particularly within African communities in the UK and in some parts of Africa.

It was reported in October 2011 that blind faith in prayer claimed the lives of three people who were HIV positive.  At least three people in London with HIV died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will “cure” their infections.

“This is happening through a number of churches. We’re hearing about more cases of this,” AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

Whether you believe in religion or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer to help you with HIV, however there is everything wrong with discontinuing medication in favour of prayer.  Take time to consider the different mechanises to combat HIV.  Prayer may help the soul and medication will help the body.  There are a lot of people of all faiths in within research and development who would hope you look after your body too.

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Fragmented sexual health system is failing users

sex-ed

The reorganisation of sexual and reproductive health and HIV services in England that occurred when the Health and Social Care Act 2013 handed over commissioning responsibility to local government has led to lack of accountability in a complex, fragmented system that is having a direct, negative impact on patients, according to an all-party group of MPs. Their inquiry has found a lack of proper oversight of the quality and outcomes delivered by commissioners, and a lack of national direction on training and development.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK – chaired by Baroness Gould of Potternewton and supported by FPA, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV – called yesterday for clarification about national accountability, better data linkage, a single funding mechanism across all services, ongoing ring-fenced public health funding, adequate staff training to be specified in contracts and mandatory sex and relationships education in all primary and secondary schools. Baroness Gould said: “A common theme throughout the inquiry was the lack of clarity identifying who is ultimately responsible at a national level for these services, and what powers they have to drive up standards and outcomes across the country.”

The APPG took evidence from the government, Public Health England, Department of Health (DH), Local Government Association, and representatives of royal colleges, charities and NHS trusts across the country. It reported:

  • Structural divisions in commissioning between the NHS, public health and social care had a significant impact on commissioning responsibilities for sexual health, reproductive health and HIV.
  • There is insufficient national coordination to enable local commissioners to work together effectively in sexual health, reproductive health and HIV. The Health Secretary should clarify and publish a clear accountability structure for sexual and reproductive health and HIV services ‘as a matter of urgency’.
  • Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), local authorities and NHS England need to be accountable for improvements delivered by the service providers they commission for sexual health, reproductive health and HIV.
  • Directors of public health and health and wellbeing boards need to work together to improve integration between services commissioned by the NHS (including general practice) and those commissioned by public health.
  • Commissioners should use a single funding mechanism, either the tariff or a block contract, across all services to avoid income-driven incentives leading to distortions in provision unrelated to patient need.
  • Short-term procurement reduces the incentive to properly train and develop staff and encourages providers to only deliver services to the letter of the contract. Provider contracts must make ongoing education and training mandatory.
  • GP data should be linked with other data in sexual health, reproductive health and HIV, to provide a full picture.
  • Local authority budget cuts for public health will lead to reductions in the service they commission and create knock-on costs for the NHS. The DH should extend the period of the ring-fence for public health as part of the autumn Spending Review.
  • Sex and relationships education should be statutory for all schools including academies and free schools.

Baroness Gould commented: “In transferring commissioning to a local level, it was anticipated that there would be integration and opportunities for joint working – all focused on the specific needs of local communities. In some places these aspirations are being realised and we heard evidence of good practice and successes but, in many areas, these structural changes have created a complex and fragmented system that is not in the best interests of the people who rely on these services.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu will ‘be home in a day or two’ after hospital treatment, says daughter

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Image: © Danie Nell Dreamstime.com

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Desmond Tutu’s daughter says the former Archbishop of Cape Town will be home again in “a day or two”, after being admitted to hospital.

Archbishop Tutu is staying in a hospital in Cape Town, where he is being treated for a “persistent infection.”

The Archbishop, who rose to notoriety fighting apartheid in the 1970s, has retired from public life, although he continues to be an iconic figure around the world for his work with the United Nations, the Catholic Church, and in peace movements.

The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, a charity based in South Africa, released a short statement, in which his daughter, the Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, said she hopes Tutu will be home again in the near future.

Details of the Archbishop’s condition remain unclear, although well wishers have been heading online to wish him a speedy recovery.

The 83-year-old was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, subsequently becoming a patron on the South African Prostate Cancer Foundation.

As a baby, Archbishop Tutu survived and illness thought to be polio, and in his teenage years battled tuberculosis.

Although he retired from public life in 2011, making the announcement on the day he turned 79, he continues to travel and make occasional public appearances. 

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Farewell Celia,

Celia

LASS is preparing for more change as Celia Fisher plans to leave us in September.

Celia has provided LASS with the benefit of her excellent knowledge, skills, commitment and belief in our work for almost 11 years having joined LASS for a 3 month temporary part time post in 2004.

Our organisation and work have grown around her and she has made a huge difference to our profile locally, regionally and nationally.

Her training courses, community development, research and delivery and development of our community testing service and prisons work are just some of the excellent initiatives she is leading on here at LASS.

She will be greatly missed and a very hard act to follow, we are currently looking at how we might replace her so please stay turned to this blog for further information about this.

We know Celia plans to travel and will visit some of the people who LASS know who are now abroad.  We hope to capitalise on some of her travelling experiences to continue to develop our work in future, so we don’t intent to let her escape too far!

On behalf of all of LASS; Past, Present & Future – farewell Celia and safe journey!

 

Sunil Gupta – From Here to Eternity

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From ‘From Here To Eternity’ by Sunil Gupta

Sunil Gupta, is a HIV positive photographer who specialises in self portraiture, documentary and emotive photography.

In his series ”From Here to Eternity,” seen complete here, is in diptych format. On the left are snapshot-style pictures of the artist, in two cases in the process of receiving H.I.V.-related medical treatment. On the right are pictures of exteriors of gay clubs in London, deserted in daylight. The pairings look simple but are laced with complicated information.

In one lefthand photo, Mr. Gupta hugs a small pet dog; behind him hangs a framed picture of the phallic-looking Delhi landmark called the Qutab Minar, a 13th-century mosque tower built by Muslim colonizers. (Its Arabic inscription reads that it was built to cast the long shadow of God over the conquered Hindu city.) The right panel shows the locked gate like door of a club and beside it, a billboard with the words ”If God exists, why doesn’t He help you?”

The celebratory sense of communal empowerment sometimes associated with art produced in response to AIDS is missing here. Instead, social gathering places are inaccessible, desolate, sometimes half-hidden. Tenderness is a solitary emotion. Liberation takes the comfortless form of unromantic self-awareness.

Generating awareness, personal and public, has propelled Mr. Gupta’s career for nearly two decades, as an artist, writer and curator. He doesn’t makes it easy to come by; it rarely has a feel-good payoff, but it is the moral spine of this fine show.

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Ramadan, Fasting & HIV.

Crescent Moon

Image Credit: Tom Robson (tjrfoto.wordpress.com) © 2015

Ramadan is the name of one of the 12 lunar months of the Islamic calendar.  For 29 days of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.  Many HIV-positive wish to join their community in observing this important month, can they?

During Ramadan, Muslims practice the maximum self-control by denying their bodies every earthly pleasure during the daylight.  This means that eating food and drinking (including water).

After sunset, a fasting individual may eat and drink.  Many attend Mosques at night to pray and socialise.  Ramadan ends when the next crescent moon is born and celebrated with Eid ul-Fitr [breaking fast feast].

Fasting is a healthy practice for people with good health; the Quran exempted some categories from fasting – the sick, pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and travellers — and the wisdom behind this waiver is to spare hardship or damage. However, in spite of the Quranic waiver to those who are sick, many Muslims insist on fasting even if they have a minor health condition, justified the rewarding experience and of course to be part of the community.  Of course if you decide not to fast, the Quran says that you are obliged to feed someone who is less fortunate than you.

The question is, can someone or should someone who is HIV positive fast for Ramadan?

The best person to help you decide is your HIV doctor.  To help you and your doctor make the decision, you need to take under consideration some general factors, such as: when you were diagnosed, your overall health, your viral load and T-cell count.  Those in the early period of treatment should not fast, because the body is still trying to adjust to HIV and the treatment which you are having.

If you have been on treatment for some time, and your T-cell numbers are good, with undetectable viral load, and an overall good health then you might consider discussing your wish to observe Ramadan with your doctor.  Explain to her/him that you cannot let any substance go down your mouth to your stomach from sunrise to sunset.

Ask your doctor if your medication regimen could be adjusted with no risk, so you can take it before the sunrise and/or after the sunset.  If you are on a one pill regimen it might be easier for you to fast than if you are on a multiple pill one.

Once you get the green light from your doctor, you still need to take extra steps when fasting Ramadan.

For example, try to prepare good supplements to use on a daily basis during the month if you haven’t been doing so; in Ramadan eating less meals a day could seriously decrease your intake of important minerals and vitamins. Drink plenty of water during the night and avoid salty meals that could make you thirsty. Avoid unnecessary exposure to sun or heat to avoid dehydration. Do not overload your body with work and rest well while fasting.

Medical experts appeal to those who fast and ask them to stay from fizzy or carbonated drinks like cola, lemonade & other flavours even at Lftar (fast-breaking time).  A long day of fasting causes dehydration of the kidneys.  Having cold and fizzy drinks can suddenly cause the kidneys to fail.  Instead, use fresh water and fresh juices.

Ramadan is a good opportunity to quit bad habits; remember that smoking is not allowed while fasting, so if you do smoke maybe this is a good time to quit.

Fasting can also have great health benefits if done the proper way.  According to Mayo Clinic, “Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad,’ cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. This can reduce your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease.”

Remember: the Quran forbids Muslims to commit acts that could even remotely jeopardise your health.  If your doctor advised against fasting, or if you have any concern that fasting might hurt your health, then don’t fast and invest the month in doing all the other good deeds that you can do; you can delay your lunch meal to be able to join your community in the daily fast-breaking ceremony.

We wish you a joyful and happy Ramadan filled with blessings and generosity.  We hope this Ramadan will enable you explore the great benefits of spirituality while fighting against HIV/AIDS or any other hardship.

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FREE TRAINING: HIV, Health & Wellbeing

Origami-crane

When we talk about mental wellbeing, we mean more than just happiness.  We know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely related.

Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing but it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.

Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.  So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do.  And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.

Wellbeing and society

Over the last 50 years, we in Britain have become richer. Despite this, evidence from population surveys – in which people were asked to rate their own happiness or mental wellbeing – shows that mental wellbeing has not improved.

This suggests that many of the things we often think will improve our mental wellbeing – such as more possessions, more money to spend or expensive holidays – on their own do not lead to a lasting improvement in the way we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The message is clear: it’s time to rethink wellbeing.

Wellbeing in your life

Many factors influence our wellbeing. Evidence shows that the actions we take and the way we think have the biggest impact.  It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are.  The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out and the first thing you can do for your own wellbeing is become curious about it!

FREE TRAINING

We’re offering a free ‘HIV, Health & Wellbeing’ session .  The aim of this sessuin is to explore how overall health and wellbeing can be affected by being diagnosed with, living with or affected by HIV.  The session will explore different approaches to increase health & wellbeing for ourselves and for people we interact or work with.

This session will be of interest and benefit for people who are affected by HIV, those who work with people living with or affected by HIV and those who are involved in different wellbeing issues and solutions.

Date: Tuesday, 23rd June 2015
Time: 10:00 – 12:00am

To book, please download and complete this booking form and email it to, training@lass.org.uk.

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