A religious organization in Malawi wants pastors who stop people from going to hospitals when they are living with HIV/AIDS and instead tells them they will be healed by the power of God to stop the act and be arrested when found.
The call has come amidst a report recently that up to five people died after a pastor asked them to stop taking Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs on the basis that God would heal them through prayer.
Addressing the press in Lilongwe over the weekend, Malawi Interfaith Aids Association (MIAA) Executive Director Robert Ngaiyaye said that there is a need for government to do more to prevent faith leaders from encouraging people with HIV to stop taking their drugs, saying this is a violation of their rights to health and life.
He said that his organization is engaging concerned stakeholders towards addressing the situation which he said is worrisome.
‘’We have sent an appeal to Malawi Law Society, Human Rights Commission to provide MIAA with guidance on how the law can take its course. It is not right to allow certain section of people to deprive others of their rights to life and good health because of their conditions at the pretense of praying for them. The right to health and life here is being violated,” said Ngaiyaye.
Ngaiyaye has since asked the pastors to desist from ‘cheating’ people that prayer alone can heal them. Malawi24 has been seeing adverts lately of religious leaders calling people to grace their prayer centres claiming that they can heal every disease.
The pastors claim that there is no medication made by men that can heal the patients.
According to stats on Averts website, Malawi’s HIV prevalence is one of the highest in the world, with 10.3% of the population living with HIV.
Malawi accounts for 4% of the total number of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 1,000,000 Malawians were living with HIV in 2013 and 48,000 Malawians died from HIV-related illnesses in the same year.
The Malawian HIV epidemic plays a critical role in the country’s low life expectancy of just 54.8 years. Over the last decade, impressive efforts to reduce the HIV epidemic have been made at both national and local levels.
New infections have dramatically declined from 98,000 new infections in 2005, to 34,000 new infections in 2013. Malawi has also witnessed a 67% reduction in children acquiring HIV, the largest country decline across sub-Saharan Africa.
The Malawian HIV epidemic varies greatly across the country, with HIV prevalence in Southern regions of Malawi twice as high as Northern and Central regions, at 14.5%.
Additionally, HIV is found to be more prevalent in urban areas (17.4%) than rural areas of Malawi (9%).