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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