Tag Archives: Department of Health

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.

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe by email
Visit Well For Living
for well-being news and info or follow_THEM-a copy

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

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe via email

HIV Awareness “Drops Off Radar”

Listen to this article instead: [audio http://www.lass.org.uk/files/uploads/120808.mp3]

It’s claimed infection rates are still high and many people don’t understand what it’s like living with the illness.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there were nearly 6,000 confirmed cases in adults across the UK in 2011.

In the last five years nearly 3,500 16 to 24-year-olds have been diagnosed.

Paul Steinberg is a sexual health expert based in Lambeth, south London.

He said: “I think it’s a fair point to say awareness of HIV generally has dropped off the radar for a lot of people in this country.”

Paul believes the medical advances made in treating HIV over the past decade have led to people becoming more complacent and taking more risks.

He also says the increased focus on other, more common, STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea means young people aren’t as educated as they should be on HIV.

“If someone is diagnosed with chlamydia then we can give them some antibiotics and they will be cured,” he said.

“Although HIV is not a death sentence any more, if someone does get diagnosed it’s a long-term, long-lasting condition.

“It’s not the same as having chlamydia or gonorrhea which can be treated.”

Infection myths

Sarah, which is not her real name, is 25 and was born with HIV.

She agrees there are too many young people who don’t know enough about the virus.

Sarah’s been doing work with the charity Body and Soul, which has launched a campaign called Life In My Shoes to challenge people’s misunderstandings of HIV.

The Department of Health recently announced £8m would be spent on raising awareness of HIV in England over the next three years.

The bulk of that money will be given to The Terrence Higgins Trust, one of the UK’s leading sexual health charities.

Genevieve Edwards from the Trust agreed more work needed to be done.

She said: “There’s a new generation who haven’t had basic training.

“The government is funding us to target our campaigns for those most at risk, which are gay and black and African communities.

“However, it’s true to say much more can be done for the population as a whole and generally young people.”

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe via email

A History of HIV & AIDS – 1993

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

We focus on 1993 today.  During January, 116 new cases of AIDS were reported in the UK, bringing the cumulative total to 7,045. One in six of these new cases were acquired through heterosexual intercourse.

In March, the House of Representatives in the USA voted overwhelmingly to retain the ban on the entry into the country of HIV positive people.

In early April the Ministers of Health and Finance from 39 countries met in Riga, Latvia, and launched an initiative to contain the spread of HIV in Central and Eastern European countries.

On 7th April all French television networks broadcast ‘Tous contre le Sida’ (All against AIDS) simultaneously, a special 4-hour programme designed to heighten awareness about HIV/AIDS and to raise money. The estimated audience for the programme was 33 million. Some 32,000 cases of AIDS had been recorded in France, with 15 deaths each day, and an estimated 150,000 people were thought to be infected.

In Romania, the number of children infected with HIV had increased. There were an estimated 98,000 infected orphans.

China had reported one thousand cases of HIV infection, mostly in injecting drug users, but it was believed that this greatly understated the scale of the country’s HIV epidemic.

In South Africa, the National Health Department reported that the number of recorded HIV infections had grown by 60 percent in the previous two years and was expected to double in 1993. A survey of women attending health clinics indicated that nationally some 322,000 people were infected.

In mid-1993, it had been realised that HIV was also spreading rapidly in the Asia and Pacific regions, home to more than half the world’s population, where more than 700,000 people were already believed to be infected.

Official statistics for Brazil indicated that some 46,000 cases of AIDS had been recorded, but estimates put the actual number at anywhere between 450,000 and 3 million cases.  Two thirds of the known cases were in Sao Paulo state where AIDS was the leading cause of death of women aged 20-35.

Despite the overwhelming evidence and more importantly, the need that safer sex campaigns were needed, in 1994 In the UK, the Department of Health vetoed an AIDS campaign promoting safer sex and condoms which was already developed at a cost of £2m on the grounds that it was too explicit!

The campaign was developed by the Health Education Authority (a government funded body) who later in the year were banned by the Department of Health from distributing the book, ‘Your Pocket Guide to Sex’. It was aimed at 16 to 25 year olds, giving advice on contraception, HIV and safe sex. The media reacted hysterically, saying that it was encouraging young people to have sex, and the government panicked. They pulped the book and threatened to stop all of their AIDS and sexual health education programmes.

However, this author has just researched Amazon and found it’s available to buy online, here’s the link if you’re interested!

The World Bank reviewed its HIV and AIDS activities in Africa, and decided that AIDS should not dominate its agenda on population, health and nutrition issues.

In the UK the radio DJ and comedian Kenny Everett announced that he was HIV positive, as did Holly Johnson, former lead singer with the group Frankie goes to Hollywood.

During the summer, the AIDS Prevention Agency in Brussels, in collaboration with the European Union, launched a campaign whose central image was ‘the flying condom’.


On World AIDS Day, 1st December, Benetton in collaboration with ACT UP Paris placed a giant condom (22 metres high and 3.5 wide) on the obelisk in Place de la Concorde in Central Paris in an effort to waken the world to the reality of the disease. A symbolic monument to HIV prevention, it appeared on the covers of newspapers worldwide.

At the end of 1993 the estimated number of AIDS cases worldwide was 2.5 million.

But hope was on the horizon, if only for some, a large European study on mother-to-child transmission showed that Caesarean section halved the rate of HIV transmission, something of hope to expectant mothers and demonstrated that progress was being made in the field of HIV research.

Research indicated that Thailand had reduced its rate of HIV transmission. This was largely due to action by the government, which had distributed condoms to brothels and insisted that they were used consistently.

In face of opposition to HIV prevention programs it seemed that hope was near, in Leicester LASS moves to new premises, our current home.  The Michael Wood Centre and establishes a ‘company limited by Guarantee’, and gain charitable status.

Following the dissolution of Leicester Body Positive, a peer support development project is set up to develop opportunities for peer support, undertake and develop advocacy, and develop self-sustaining systems for people with HIV to influence the planning and provision of services in Leicestershire.


Follow LASS on Twitter

or subscribe via email

New partnership for HIV Prevention in England launched

A new partnership for HIV prevention in England is launched today.  The TRUST Partnership is a collaboration between established players in the HIV sector and beyond to develop a new and inclusive vision for targeted HIV prevention in England.

TRUST is led by METRO, African Health Policy Network (AHPN), PACE, Birmingham LGBT, Sheffield Centre for HIV and Sexual Health and Leicestershire AIDS Support Service (LASS). These specialist organisations are joined by a range of clinical, commercial, academic and policy experts including the School of Medicine and Health and the Centre for Gender, Sex and Sexualities at Durham University, and Lateral Group.

With rates of HIV infection remaining high, the key aims of the Partnership are to reduce late and undiagnosed HIV and to prevent new infections.  In working towards those aims, the partnership is also looking at the general health and well being of those communities most affected by HIV – men who have sex with men (MSM) and African people.

The Partnership is founded on a model of transparency and inclusion that welcomes all organisations engaged in HIV Prevention work. TRUST’s vision is for an ‘open door’ approach based on community engagement to allow for focused, inclusive and collaborative HIV prevention work. This vision was developed through extensive consultation with the groups most affected by HIV.  Seven principles have been developed that all TRUST partners subscribe to.  TRUST will continue to engage with HIV prevention providers and wider stakeholders to develop new collaborations.

TRUST has submitted a response to the Department of Health’s tendering for a National Programme of Targeted HIV Prevention for a new programme, which will combine the current CHAPS and NAHIP programmes for MSM and African populations. TRUST is proposing a significant improvement to current service delivery and a significant number of existing CHAPS and NAHIP partners have signed up to the TRUST vision for change.

Dr Greg Ussher, Metro Deputy CEO said:

We know that HIV infection levels are high and that current prevention approaches are not as effective as they could be.  In the TRUST Partnership we believe that collaboration to harness the wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise of affected communities and the sector is the only way forward. United with people whose lives are affected by HIV, we can really make a difference.  Our vision and model of working together and welcoming all is the best defence in the fight against HIV and the best use of limited public sector resources.

Francis Kaikumba, AHPN CEO said:

TRUST aims to build on the successful work of engaging with community groups, faith  leaders and organisations to ensure that local activity is scaled up to improve quality and innovation in HIV prevention in England. TRUST partners look forward to working together in the future on other bids and to the TRUST approach becoming the standard of cooperative and innovative , multi-sector approaches to HIV prevention in the UK and beyond .It is through such a multidisciplinary and sector wide approach that we can truly address the complex issue of HIV prevention in England and deliver a really world class programme.

Denis Onyango, Acting CEO of Africa Advocacy Foundation (AAF) and Trustee of the African Health Forum said:

Africa Advocacy Foundation and the African Health Forum welcome the opportunity to join with the TRUST Partnership and to contribute to the development of its vision. Collaborative working has been the cornerstone of successful HIV prevention with African communities for the past decade and we are committed to seeking new and innovative ways to share learning and continuously improve services. Any national programme must be directly engaged with the people and communities it seeks to support. The TRUST Partnership represents a strong, coherent model for both national and regional HIV prevention in the future that is grounded in the reality of people’s lives.

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe via email

Sexual Health Experts Warn Of New Syphilis Threat

Sexual health experts say they are deeply concerned about several outbreaks of syphilis among heterosexual teenagers.

In recent years the infection has been largely confined to older adults, particularly homosexual men.

But clusters of the disease are being seen in Teesside, Hampshire, Rochdale and central Scotland among teenagers.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV says there are likely to be other cases going unreported too.

Since the late 1990s there has been a sharp rise in cases of syphilis. Most of these have been in homosexual men, often in their 20s or 30s.

But recently there have been several small outbreaks across Britain of syphilis in heterosexual teenagers – described in detail in the International Journal of STD and Aids.

Any outbreak of syphilis among young people, among teenagers is unexpected. Syphilis shouldn’t be happening in those groups and we really don’t know why it’s there” -Peter Greenhouse Sexual health consultant

It should be stressed that the number of cases described is small – the largest outbreak has been just over 30 in a year – but the reports highlight problems in tracing sexual contacts, raising fears of further undiagnosed cases, and the spread of disease within the wider sexually active population.

Peter Greenhouse, a sexual health consultant based in Bristol who speaks for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (Bashh), says these cases must be taken seriously.

“Any outbreak of syphilis among young people, among teenagers is unexpected. Syphilis shouldn’t be happening in those groups and we really don’t know why it’s there. So if we can see a small number of outbreaks in a small number of young people it means there must be others going on as well.”

Martin Murchie, president of the Society of Sexual Health Advisers, agrees that the number of cases diagnosed may just be the “tip of the iceberg”.

He says increasing numbers of people, including teenagers, are arranging to have anonymous sex through social networks. He warns that this is making the task of tracing sexual contacts even harder.

“The way that people meet for sex is very different and changing in society. That in itself can be problematic in trying to trace contacts because some people may change their username that they had originally on the social network site, or the health service itself may not be able to access the social networking site.”

Dr Patrick French, a consultant in Genito Urinary Medicine in London, says there is no room for any complacency. He says syphilis is a serious disease that can lead to heart disease, stroke and dementia, and raises the risk of acquiring HIV.

“The worry is that if syphilis gets into the wider sexually active population of young people it could then become a common and endemic infection. Before syphilis became unusual in the UK in the 1980s it was a major cause of ill health and that’s no longer the case. So it’s a very important infection to try and prevent.”

Many experts fear that sexual health services in England may be hampered by the government’s proposals to move them from the NHS to local council control.

Peter Greenhouse, from Bashh, says: “Some of the services may be privatised or cut down in terms of resources, so we may lose some of our health adviser teams.”

But the Department of Health rejected these concerns.

A spokesman said: “Our reforms won’t fragment sexual health services. Under our plans, the responsibility for most sexual health services will go to local councils. This will allow councils to make crucial links between improving sexual health and their other responsibilities.”

Original Article by Adam Brimelow, Health Correspondent at BBC News

The following video from LiveStrong.com contains more information about Syphilis.

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe via email

UKBA proposals to deny entry or stay to migrants with NHS debt: a public health disaster waiting to happen

The changes to the Immigration Rules later this month will include a new provision allowing refusal of entry or stay where a migrant has an unpaid NHS debt.  While the Government has brought out the familiar narrative of ‘health tourism’ to justify using immigration controls as a form of punishment for people with NHS debts, Sarah from National AIDS Trust, writes that these plans are likely to have a detrimental impact of public health in the UK.

Sarah Radcliffe is Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at NAT (National AIDS Trust). NAT is the UK’s HIV policy charity. They champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.  Sarah works on policy issues around migration and asylum, access to healthcare, poverty and welfare.  Her words follow:

The biannual announcement of changes to the Immigration Rules this month will include a new provision allowing refusal of immigration applications for entry or stay where a migrant has an unpaid NHS debt. The Department of Health have agreed to share information about individuals’ NHS debts with UKBA to make this possible.

The Government has brought out the familiar narrative of ‘health tourism’ to justify using immigration controls as a form of punishment for people with NHS debts. The DH and UKBA consultation documents outlined a plan of deterring people who are not entitled to free NHS secondary care from accessing it, by escalating the personal consequences of leaving an NHS debt unpaid.

Of course, what these proposals do not acknowledge is that it often in the best interest of the NHS, and the public generally, for chargeable migrants to access secondary healthcare. A key illustration of this is accessing treatment for HIV, the only STI and communicable disease which is subject to treatment charges.

HIV treatment is highly effective at keeping people well and out of hospital.  It is also highly effective at helping prevent onwards transmission of HIV – being on treatment reduces the probability that someone will pass on HIV by 96%. To get maximum benefit from HIV treatment, it is important that someone is diagnosed in good time.  People who are diagnosed late, or not at all, are most likely to become unwell and need to access more expensive treatment options.  The majority of new HIV cases come from someone who has not been diagnosed.

Charging for HIV treatment is highly effective in deterring people from accessing the individual and community benefits of treatment. It also is an effective way of deterring people from accessing testing, even though this is free, because why find out you are living with a lifelong condition if you won’t be able to afford treatment?  Migrant communities affected by HIV are already very likely to be diagnosed late, after they should have already started treatment.  In 2009, two thirds of new HIV diagnoses among African migrants were ‘late’.

This deterrence effect goes beyond those who are actually chargeable. Charging regulations are complex and it is not always clear to an individual migrant if they will or won’t be charged for their treatment. If they know that others in their community are pursued for debts that they can’t pay, they may assume they will also be charged and never seek treatment.  By the same token, it may not be clear to a migrant that they can still access treatment for other infectious diseases such as TB for free, if they have been charged for HIV. Patients stay away from TB treatment for this very reason.

Far from the image of the ‘health tourist’, entering the UK for the sole aim of using the NHS, most chargeable migrants with HIV are in the UK precariously, as refused asylum seekers or irregular migrants, and are living in destitution. Their NHS debts could be written off, but are often pursued, due to inconsistent application of the charging rules.

Threatening migrants with refusal of further applications for entry or stay in the UK will add to the deterrence effect already created by NHS charging rules – the Government has got that much right. What they are yet to acknowledge, though, is that these plans will succeed to the detriment of public health.

To find out more about the entitlement to healthcare for migrants read Wayne Farah’s blog “Access to Primary Healthcare for migrants” and visit our Health4Migrants website.

Follow LASS on Twitter
or subscribe via email