Monthly Archives: September 2012

Faith leaders across England in ‘HIV healing’ claims

Synagogue Church Of All Nations website shows videos of people it claims have been “cured”

Dangerous cases of faith leaders who tell people with HIV to stop taking their life-saving drugs have been identified by African-led community groups in a number of locations across England.

Seven groups said there were instances of people being told by faith leaders they had been “healed” through prayer – and then pressured to stop taking antiretroviral medication, according to the charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN).

Cases were reported to have taken place in Finsbury Park, Tottenham, and Woolwich, in London, as well as in Manchester, Leeds and at a number of churches across the North West.

Last year, BBC London identified three people with HIV who died after they stopped taking antiretroviral drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

AHPN, which tackles health inequalities for Africans living in the UK, called on the government to do more to prevent faith leaders encouraging people with HIV to stop taking their drugs.

“The government, the department of health, and local authorities are not doing enough to respond to this,” said Jacqueline Stevenson, AHPN’s head of policy.

Multiple cases
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Prayer is not a substitute for HIV treatment and we would be very concerned if people are not taking their medication on the advice of faith leaders.”

AHPN said the cases reported to it by community groups showed:

Most respondents were aware of more than one case of faith healing claims and pressure to stop taking medication. One member was aware of five cases
Many followers believed the testimony of pastors who claimed they could heal them
The majority of cases reported involved Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian pastors
In some cases treatment has been restarted, in others the health and mental health of clients has declined.
Although community groups said they were aware of multiple cases, the members who reported being exposed to faith healers were unwilling to name the churches involved.

AHPN’s Ms Stevenson said: “People were reluctant to name the churches and pastors.”

Cancer ‘cure’

Synagogue Church Of All Nations says: “Never a disease God cannot cure.”

Last year AHPN said it believed the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), which has UK headquarters in Southwark, south London, may be one of those involved in such practices.

The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, who the Forbes richlist named as Nigeria’s third richest clergyman.

SCOAN’s website, which was set up in Lagos, Nigeria, now shows videos of people the church claims have been “cured” of HIV through prayer.

One video shows a woman Agnes Agnote visiting the church in Nigeria saying: “I am HIV positive. I went to the hospital and they confirmed it was HIV/Aids.”

The video then shows Pastor Joshua blessing her, saying “everyone is healed”.

It goes on to show Ms Agnote apparently showing a more recent medical report, with a narrator saying, “it clearly states that Agnes tested negative to HIV Aids”.

Videos on the website also depict people being cured of “cancers” and “disabilities”.

‘Anointing sticker’ tour
The church’s British website now gives accounts of people reporting to be healed from conditions including arthritis and a lung blood clot after being a sprayed with “anointing water” by SCOAN in the UK.

It promotes a monthly “anointing water prayer line” in London “for any health issues” and advertises an “anointing sticker” tour of the UK and Ireland, which begins on Monday.

Last year, when asked by the BBC if it claimed its pastors could cure HIV, SCOAN responded: “We are not the healer. God is the healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure.”

But it added: “We don’t ask people to stop taking medication. Doctors treat – God heals.”

Ms Stevenson warned: “Often faith groups and churches spring up and nobody really knows they are there or what they are doing.”

“There needs to be investment in taking some action at national and local levels to address this issue.”

She added that AHPN wanted to see faith groups and churches “having the same responsibility in terms of safeguarding and respecting individuals as any other organisation would be expected to have”.

But AHPN warned that criminal sanctions would not be an appropriate solution and would risk “pushing the problem underground”.

“We call for local authorities to work with faith groups and ensure these negative messages are not put out.”

The Department of Communities and Local Government refused to respond to these comments.

But the Department of Health said faith organisations “can make a positive contribution to raising awareness of HIV” by “highlighting the benefits of testing and effective antiretroviral treatment”.

Original article By Andy Dangerfield
BBC News, London

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The Influence & Effects Of Community HIV Testing for the African Communities in Leicester

A special research report by Diana Inegbenebor of African Health Policy Network, and Celia Fisher, of Leicestershire AIDS Support Services

Leicester City has almost the most diverse population for a city in England, with predictions that there will be no ethnic majority by 2012. There are many different African communities in the city, this increases the challenges for HIV awareness, HIV testing and prevention interventions as there are many different aspects and cultural differences to consider. Leicester City has an above average number of people with diagnosed HIV, with a current prevalence of 3.2 per 1000.

This is the 7th highest rate in England. In this context LASS (Leicestershire AIDS Support Service) launched its Rapid HIV testing service in June 2009, supported by a Clinical Governance Group.

The uptake of testing within the African communities was low during the first year of the Rapid HIV testing service compared to the uptake from other communities in Leicester. The Community tester volunteer project was initiated to empower African communities with knowledge about HIV and the skills to deliver Rapid HIV testing as community volunteers in association with LASS. Groups of people from different African communities have taken the Rapid HIV testing training, with a total of 28 of these community volunteers completing the training to 1st September 2011. The benefit of the community tester approach is that each person trained understands their community and can adapt and tailor an approach as necessary.

This research report is focused on the effects of the LASS Community Rapid Testing training with different African communities in Leicester and the influence of trained community testing volunteers on the uptake of HIV testing. Key objectives are:

  • To compare the uptake of POCT HIV testing in the different African communities before and after the LASS community HIV tester project was initiated.
  • To determine the cost benefits and savings of using Rapid HIV tests delivered in the communities in non-clinical settings and by non-clinical volunteers.
  • To find out the motivation for people volunteering to become testers, keeping in mind the training includes an HIV test for each person.
  • To provide recommendations about using and evolving the community tester model in what will become a resource limited environment.

A literature review was undertaken to determine what information is available about Community HIV Testing models. The review summarises evidence sourced 3 from Medline/Pub med, Global  Health/Global Health Archive, Cochrane, and Google scholar. Review of material about Rapid HIV Testing reiterates the effectiveness of HIV rapid test kits in early detection of HIV especially for use in the community. There are models of practice for using volunteers in HIV prevention and care work. A study in Zambia looked at the role of community volunteers in voluntary counselling and testing.  They concluded that community volunteers, with approved training and on-going supervision can play a major role to provide counselling and testing services of quality. Research into “training to test” shows that volunteer testing programmes have been tried and proved successful in other countries.

Analysis of the uptake of Rapid HIV testing by people from African communities is compared between 2 periods – before and after the community tester project was started. The analysis clearly shows the effectiveness of focused interventions with 100% increase in uptake over similar periods of time. The benefits of focused interventions alongside accessible HIV testing are evident – in particular taking HIV testing out to the community, with significant numbers of people getting tested at these events. The trained community testing volunteers understand the benefits of being tested and have a significant effect on the acceptability of testing in the communities. There are more tests carried out in the office based setting after these interventions, with 3 new diagnoses in one period due to these influences.

The experience with the different communities highlights that it is important for HIV to be openly discussed to enable people to have the confidence to get tested. When communities are openly talking about HIV and the benefits of testing more people will get tested. The community testing volunteer approach gives an ideal opportunity for people to practice sharing strong messages about HIV and HIV testing.

Results from the qualitative research show that people who have been trained to test were generally very satisfied with the knowledge they had accrued from the training course, and were willing to take what they had learned to their communities, to educate and empower others. People are motivated by doing things for their community. In this model the testing is encapsulated in a ‘bigger’ outcome for the individual.

The effect of the community tester model increases the confidence within the community generally as they have access to new skills and knowledge. The majority of people in each African community here in Leicester have direct experience of people living with HIV, whether locally or back home.  LASS have anecdotal reports of people using their up to date HIV knowledge globally: being able to provide clarity and facts for a person who knows mainly myths. Others are planning to use these skills when they return to their country – as they can now deliver with confidence.

The community testing model using volunteers is cost effective. Comparison of the cited potential cost savings to those of the Community testing model delivered by LASS, immediately highlight the benefits of using this model:

Potential cost savings for 8 new diagnoses are between £2.24 million and £2.88 million with between £7,840 and £14,000 spent to achieve this delivering 556 tests.

Recommendations from the research are as follows;

  • Take the model into different communities and continue to evaluate the benefits.
  • Deliver HIV testing in different community settings on a regular basis to increase accessibility and acceptability, in particular using the outreach van.
  • Research to consider and evaluate the benefits of community HIV testing volunteer training in local communities and with their global connections.
  • Initiate research into how community testing and involvement of people in seeing their blood make the positive result affects acceptance of diagnosis and onward management of HIV. This recommendation is based on observations during the research for already diagnosed HIV positive people.
  • Develop the community volunteer tester model to include testing for other health conditions, for example Hepatitis.

The authors would like to acknowledge the involvement of community testing volunteers and all those involved in organising and delivering the interventions.

Download the full report here.

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Related articles

TRADE Sexual Health – 160 People Tested at Leicester Pride 2012

Trade Sexual Health is a HIV & AIDS prevention charity based in Leicester for people living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

They provide free and confidential advice and support to anyone who identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, men who has sex with men or women who has sex with women.

The city of Leicester has the fastest-rising HIV rate in the east Midlands and the sixth-highest in the country.

Leicester GU accompanied Trade on site providing HIV tests for the community alongside other activities.  LASS would like to say a big thank you, and congratulate Leicester GU with Trade for achieving 160 Kwik Prick, Rapid HIV Tests for the community.  Here’s an update on their day, from Trade:

Breaking Record! 160 People Tested at Leicester Pride 2012

Now at the forefront of sexual health, Trade Sexual Health joined forces once again with Leicester GUM Clinic to provide the Trade Health & Wellbeing Marquee at Leicester Pride 2012!

Our nationally recognised Trade GU clinic at Leicester Pride tested a record 160 people. All 160 had a full sexual health screening beating last year’s 136. With infection rates increasing, and undiagnosed HIV on the rise, this was a fantastic achievement, Thank you to the 160 people who tested.

Pride goers took part in fitness classes, had health checks, accessed information, booked in for a free massage and visited a host of other health and wellbeing stands in the Marquee. As usual Trade brought along a load of resources and goodies and we launched our new health campaign raising awareness of STIs. The willy sweets promoting this campaign seemed to attract a lot of attention.

We managed to give out roughly 3,000 free condoms to those present on the day.

Thank you to everyone who came along; to Leicester Pride, Leicester GU, sponsors, all the volunteers, staff and our committed Board of Trustees, for a fantastic day.
We are confident that we will build on this success and provide an even bigger and better Trade Marquee next year.

If that wans’t enough Gay Pride for you, we were there too! – Click this to find out more.

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Gay Pride 2012

We would like to say a big thank you to all volunteers, service users, mentors and staff for all of their hard work and support at Gay Pride and at the many different events throughout the year.

Every year, LASS hold a stall at Leicester Pride to promote equality and diversity, alongside our message of safer sex. It’s a chance to see our work in the community and meet our workers in a party atmosphere.

Our “Size-O-Meter” worked particularly well this year, and it was nice to talk about what matters sometimes – Size which is often, one of the least talked about characteristics when choosing a condom.

As many know, men aren’t built the same, and neither are condoms, too small, and the condom could be uncomfortable, too large, and it could slip off. (Large condoms can actually be more of a problem than small, because condoms are extremely stretchy and normally fit well). Still, most men will be much happier using condoms that fit well, and to facilitate that, condoms come in a range of sizes.

Have you measured your size? Always wanted to know? – Then download and print our Size-O-Meter and find out. Of course, this isn’t a scientific measurement it’s just for fun, just remember to stay safe, and feel comfortable in the rubber you’re in! This year, we gave out 1,300 condoms of various size which also included 100 novelty and 300 flavoured condoms.

Rapid HIV Testing Service

The city of Leicester has the fastest-rising HIV rate in the east Midlands and the sixth-highest in the country.

Meanwhile, in 2009/10, national research demonstrated that community testing was effective in delivering tests to those at risk, preventing late diagnosis and thereby reducing onward transmission. As there was no such community testing service in Leicester, we set about creating one! – Since it’s inception, we’ve tested almost 1000 people!

Unfortunately, we were unable to provide our award winning Rapid HIV Service on site, however we still offer this service on Regent Road.  If you’re interested in having a free test, you can drop in, informally or call to make an appointment (0116 2559995).  We’re available to test during normal working hours, it’s completely free, confidential and you’ll get the results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test.

We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days post contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies.

We’re no stranger to festivals and events, we’ve danced at the Caribbean Carnival, we’ve rocked at the Summer Sundae, we attend Freshers Fairs, Football Tournaments, Gay Pride, Refugee Week and many many more!  We had a great day, promoting safer sex, listening to to good music, made more friends, and Henna tattooed anyone (over 16) who wanted one.

Thank you, once again to all the volunteers who made this day an excellent success, as it has been in our previous years.

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Annual General Meeting

The AGM (Annual General Meeting) is a public meeting where LASS Trustees report back on the management & finances of the organisation for the previous year. Trustees are elected & re-elected for the forthcoming year and members have the opportunity to put questions to the board & vote for decisions and for Trustees.  It’s also a great opportunity to meet our staff and volunteer workforce.

This year, we are delighted to welcome three guest speakers:

  • Deb Watson: Director of Public Health Leicester City and Interim Director of Adult Social Care
  • Francis Kiakumba Chief Executive Office of the African Health Policy Network (AHPN)
  • Dr Fatima Ibrahim – HIV Consultant Leicester Royal Infirmary.

The focus of the meeting is the strategic planning for LASS, over the next 25 years.

Our AGM is a chance for Members to vote for changes to the board of trustees, this year two places are vacant and we invite trustee applications.  Please click here for a definition of trustee roles and if you are interesting in applying, please contact Jenny Hand or Tom Robson for further information (Closing date for application is 14th September 2012).

Our AGM this year will be held on 4th October 2012 between 19:00 – 21:00 at the Hansom Hall Adult Education Centre on Wellington Street, Leicester LE1 6HL.  (Click for a map).

Our meeting last year became fully booked quite early, so we request you contact us to confirm your attendance, either by telephone: 0116 2559995 or via email to: so we can have an indication of the numbers expected.

We hope to see you there!

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