Tag Archives: House of Lords

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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Free HIV treatment for asylum seekers and non-UK citizens

Asylum seekers and other non-British citizens are set to be given free HIV treatment after the government indicated it was willing to accept an amendment from Lord Fowler to the health bill.

Doctors working with people who have HIV have long argued that refusing free HIV drugs on the NHS to overseas visitors, including asylum seekers, is morally wrong and risks spreading the virus. Fowler, who chaired a House of Lords inquiry into the state of the HIV epidemic in Britain, nearly 25 years after he launched, as a Tory health secretary, the first major campaign warning of the the dangers of Aids, agreed with them.

His amendment to the bill will allow overseas visitors to be treated for HIV on the NHS if they have been here for six months. This brings England into line with Scotland and Wales. Experts believe the cost of providing drugs from a clinic will be far less than the possible costs of treating someone in hospital for Aids. The drugs also prevent new infections.

Ministers have indicated they will accept the amendment without a vote later this week. Anne Milton, the public health minister, said: “This measure will protect the public and brings HIV treatment into line with all other infectious diseases. Treating people with HIV means they are very unlikely to pass the infection on to others.” Perhaps anticipating possible criticism from some sections of the press, she added: “Tough guidance will ensure this measure is not abused.”

Professor Jane Anderson, chair of the British HIV Association – which represents doctors who have been placed in a dilemma by the current rules – said: “This is good news, both for people living with HIV and for public health in general. For too long access to treatment and care for some of the most vulnerable people has been compromised by the English charging arrangements.

“There is no ethical or economic reason to leave people living with HIV without appropriate treatment. Recent research shows that proper treatment can also reduce infectiousness and so stop other people becoming infected.

“I am delighted that Lord Fowler has finally won the argument on this point. It’s a decision that will certainly save lives and improve the quality of life of many who were previously shut out from appropriate treatment.”

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Original Article by Sarah Boseley at The Guardian

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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Lords Warn About “Woefully Inadequate Government Policies On HIV/AIDS

A House of Lords Select Committee today published a damning report on HIV in the UK, warning that the current priority given to HIV and Aids treatment by policy makers is ‘woefully inadequate’, and revealing that over 100,000 people in the UK will be living with the disease by next year. The Lords Select Committee on HIV and Aids in the UK also warned that the total cost of treatment would soon top £1 billion per year, and called for all new patients at GPs’ surgeries to be tested for the illness on an opt-out basis.

As the Select Committee published its report, the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) released a new plan to help policy makers deal more effectively with HIV. THT said that the plan, ‘Tackling the Spread of HIV in the UK’, would help to bring down the disease’s transmission, and reduce the financial burden on the NHS by concentrating on four actions: halving undiagnosed and late diagnosed infections within three years; increasing the number of people living with HIV taking effective treatment from half to two-thirds in three years; identifying people who persistently take risks that expose them to HIV, and supporting them to change; and increasing HIV awareness.

The Terrence Higgins Trust said it would continue to campaign within the gay community.

THT’s Executive Director of Health Improvement, Genevieve Edwards, told So So Gay she was sure that it was possible to reduce transmission by improving early diagnosis and awareness. ‘Increasing the number of people on treatment is quite do-able, if you think that a quarter of people with HIV aren’t diagnosed,’ she said. ‘Many of those people have already gone past the point at which they should receive treatment. If we can start people on the right treatment sooner, that would go an awfully long way to achieving the target.’

Edwards welcomed the Lords’ recommendation that new patients at GPs’ clinics should be tested on an opt-out basis, especially in areas where infection is more common. ‘This has been done in ante-natal screening, and that’s been one of the big successes in the UK. Very few babies are born with HIV as a result of that campaign, because women who are diagnosed with HIV during pregnancy can be offered the right sort of treatment. So when you’re in an area of high HIV prevalence, this makes sense.’

The Lords Select Committee launched its report to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the iconic ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ campaign, which was run by the Committee’s Chairman, Lord Fowler – as the then Health Secretary. As the report was published, Fowler pointed out that although HIV was now more survivable than it was in the 1980s, it remained a serious problem and not enough was being done to improve awareness; one recent survey had found that a quarter of young people had received no information about HIV in the classroom.

‘In the last 25 years the development of new drugs has dramatically reduced the death toll,’ he said. ‘But that should not encourage a false sense of security. Serious medical and mental health problems remain for many with HIV. People can now live with HIV, but all of those infected would prefer to be without a disease which can cut short life and cast a shadow over their everyday life.’

Edwards echoed Fowler’s warning about the consequences of infection, but warned against a return to ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ style scare tactics. ‘Our evidence shows that scare tactics – not just for HIV, incidentally, but for all public health areas – don’t work. People tend to look away, or immediately think it’s aimed at someone else. So while that sort of direct campaign in the 1980s was hugely influential, it wouldn’t have the same impact today. We’ve learned that we need to find different ways to get that message across.

‘Of course, we have to be absolutely clear about the reality of living with HIV in the UK. Treatments have come a long way, and they’re enormously better than they were. But it’s not without consequence. I think we’re very clear about that. On the one hand, you don’t want to scaremonger; but you have to balance that against being honest about the realities.’

Fowler agreed, and said that improved treatment alone would not help. ‘Prevention must be the key policy,’ he added. ‘One essential message remains the same as in the 1980s: the more the partners, the greater the risk. Protect yourself. Use a condom.’

Original Article by Andy Wasley at sosogay.org

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