Tag Archives: faith

Faith leaders undergo public HIV test to help battle against stigma.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

Christian leaders in the Philippines have undergone public HIV tests as part of a campaign against the stigmatisation of people with HIV. The Revd Rex Reyes Jr, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), told a press conference at the World Council of Churches’ Central Council meeting in Trondheim, Norway, this afternoon that it was part of an “aggressive educational awareness programme.”

Reyes, a priest of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, said that the “strong religious flavour” in the country was a defining issue in the way some people behave towards people living with HIV; and that the public HIV tests was part of a “more practical way” of dealing with the stigma.

Church leaders were undergoing HIV tests not because they thought they might have the virus; but “to project the necessity of HIV testing for our young people.”

He said: “Our young people are afraid to go for testing because of the discrimination that comes with it, because of the religious taboo that has been hammered home for a long time, the concept of sin and the notion of immorality, and so on.”

In addition to promoting HIV testing, the campaign was also designed to challenge young people on the issue of not discrimination and human dignity, Reyes said.

The stigma associated with HIV led to a large public backlash when a photograph of Reyes undergoing an HIV test was displayed on a huge billboard on the main highway in the country. “I was bashed for that and there was strong reaction from my colleagues to issue a statement,” he said. “But we [decided to] let it pass, because at least people are talking about it.”

He said that churches in the Philippines were working together on their approach to HIV. “It is stronger that way,” he said. “The theological issues are easier to deal with when we talk together.

“We recognise churches when they have their own initiative – and that is good. But to drive the point that HIV transcends denominations [and] transcends faith. We have to deal with that in an ecumenical way and I’m very glad that the WCC is leading in this area.”

As Leicester is such a multicultural city with a wide range of people of faith, this approach could easily be adopted and help combat not only diagnosed HIV infection, but to help reduce HIV stigma in our great city.  Something which both HIV organisations and faith leaders have in common.

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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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Update to this weeks events! & Family Day – Saturday

Gideon_Byamugisha_4

It’s with regret that our advertised event, a visit with Canon Gideon Byamugisha is postponed due to unforeseen circumstances.  However, we are planning for him to visit in September and we will do our best to ensure everyone who would like to meet him, has an opportunity to do so.

Rev Canon Dr Gideon B. Byamugisha is an ordained priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda. In 1992, he became the first African religious leader to openly declare his HIV-positive status. He has since devoted his life to an HIV / AIDS ministry which has taken him to over 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and many other parts of the world.

Canon Gideon asked us to relay, his apologies to everyone and asked for forgiveness for the inconvenience this may have caused.

HIV & Belief

Even though, Canon Gideon is unable to join us on this occasion, we are still running our HIV & Belief Session, tomorrow (Wednesday 9th) between 1-4pm at LASS.  This session will explore issues about stigma, self-stigma, support for testing and condom use and reducing discrimination and prejudice.

Additionally, we are also running our “Audience With…” – A further opportunity for faith leaders and elders to meet us at LASS.  This is held on Thursday, (10th July), the session will be of interest to people whose faith / belief plays an important role in their life also for those with an interest in the role that faith and belief have on people’s lives to help them cope or otherwise with a long term condition like HIV.

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 Family, Faith & Football Day

As you can see, it’s a busy week for us and we can’t wait to kick back and enjoy the festivities this Saturday (12th July) which is our annual “Family, Faith & Football Day”.  Our previous football days have been a huge success with many people coming along from all walks of life.  We have food, children’s entertainment, music, a bar (from 12:00) together with football all day (starting at 10:00am – Final at 4:30).  There will also be a range of health stalls so you can get information on TB, Hepititus, Diabetes, BMI and blood pressure checks and of course rapid HIV Testing!

So why not join us for some healthy fun, all day Saturday at the Emerald Centre, Gypsy Lane, Leicester. (Map)

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Blind Faith: HIV Prayer Cure Claims Three Deaths

At least three people in London with HIV have 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.

Responding to the BBC London investigation, Lord Fowler, the former health minister responsible for the famous Aids awareness campaign of the 1980s, condemned the practice.

“It’s just wrong, bad advice that should be confronted,” said the Tory peer, who chaired last month’s House of Lords committee into HIV.

Jane Iwu, 48, from Newham, east London, described one case, saying: “I know of a friend who had been to a pastor. She told her to stop taking her medication – that God is a healer and has healed her.”

“This lady believed it. She stopped taking her medication. She passed away,” said Ms Iwu, who has HIV herself.  Meanwhile, the director of a leading HIV research centre in east London said she had dealt with a separate case in which a person with HIV died as a result of advice from a pastor.

“I’ve only seen that once, but it has happened,” said Prof Jane Anderson, director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV, in Hackney.

“We see patients quite often who will come having expressed the belief that if they pray frequently enough, their HIV will somehow be cured,” she added.  “We have seen people who choose not to take the tablets at all so sometimes die.”

Lord Fowler condemned pastors giving this advice, saying: “It’s dangerous to the public and dangerous in terms of public health.”   “It’s irresponsible,” he said, suggesting pastors should instead “come off the air on it, look at things much more seriously, and not give this completely wrong advice to the public”.

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.

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

The church is headed by Pastor T B Joshua, Nigeria’s third richest clergyman, according to a recent Forbes richlist.

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

In one example, the church’s website claims: “Mrs Badmus proudly displays her two different medical records confirming she is 100% free from HIV-Aids following the prayer of Pastor T B Joshua.”

“HIV-Aids healing” is listed on the church’s website among “miracles” it says it can perform.

“Cancer healing” and “baby miracles” are also advertised.

The church’s UK website promotes a monthly “prayer line” for which it says: “If you are having a medical condition, it is important you bring a medical report for record and testimony purposes.”

It has posted videos on the internet showing its services in south London, in which participants who claim to have arthritis, asthma and schizophrenia say they have been healed after being sprayed with “anointing water” provided by the church.

Mary Buhari, 44 , from central London, told the BBC she had had a phone conversation with a representative of the church, in which she was told she could be cured of HIV.

“I was told they can cure any illness on Earth through prayer, including HIV,” she said.

However, when asked by BBC London if it claimed its pastors can 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.

“We don’t ask people to stop taking medication,” the church added. “Doctors treat; God heals.”

The recent House of Lords committee report into HIV awareness said faith groups’ approaches to supporting people with HIV had improved but more needed to be done.

“It is essential that faith leaders engage with HIV as an issue and provide effective and truthful support and communication around the subject,” it said.

A Department of Health spokesman responded to the report saying: “Over 60 recommendations were made and we will be responding to Parliament in the next few months.”

Jane Iwu and Mary Buhari had their identities changed in this article, at their request.

Original Article by By Andy Dangerfield at BBC News

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Blind Faith: The Impact Religion Can Have On HIV

Source: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/05/17/blind-faith-the-serious-impact-religion-can-have-on-hiv/ By Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma

When people face a traumatic event or experience in life they often seek solace in something they believe in; something that will offer potential solutions and fill the emotional and spiritual vacuum when everything else has failed. As you’d expect, many people living with HIV seek solace in their religious faith, and for some that becomes their whole life’s focus. However, religious faith and HIV continue to have a challenging relationship, to say the very least.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic back in the 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.

ARV treatments save lives and many of us who are taking them now would not even be here today to tell the tale if we didn’t have access to them. We now have scientific evidence from recent trials to confirm that these drugs not only save lives but can also act as an effective barrier to HIV transmission. This is by no means new information for those living with HIV and or working in the HIV sector, but having sound evidence to back our experiences up is always a bonus.

Despite such compelling evidence, there are always some who, for one reason or another, continue to reject anti-HIV medication. I have had conversations with people who have told me that they’d originally tested HIV positive but miraculously no longer carry the virus as a result of prayer and rejection of ARV treatment. I have also heard of HIV positive people who have actually testified at their places of worship that they have been ‘cured of HIV through prayer’, as well as a small minority of faith leaders who somehow manage to convince their followers that taking ARVs will kill them outright. Some HIV positive people also visit witch doctors, sangomas, and/or traditional healers, and are predictably told that no trace of HIV exists in their blood, encouraging them to abandon their ARVs altogether. In fact, the discussion about witch doctors and HIV deserves a blog of its own!

Overall, I respect the fact that faith is very individual and private, and whatever people want to believe is entirely up to them. However, this can make it very difficult to monitor any negative impacts that religious faith might have on the lives of vulnerable populations targeted by those who wish to exploit them and extort what little money they have. How many people are targeted, I don’t think anyone knows, but I strongly feel that this is a worrying phenomenon that deserves much more attention, and possible interventions, if we are to continue to help save lives.

What I am very clear about is that ARV treatment and prayer should complement each other, not compete against each other. Above all else, the God I have faith in is a generous one and helps those who help themselves by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them

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