15 February 2016

Malawi: Prosecute Pastors in 'HIV Healing' Claims - MIAA

Faith leaders who tell people with HIV to stop taking their life-saving drugs should face prosecution, Malawi Interfaith Aids Association (MIAA) has suggested.

MIAA has since appealed to the Malawi Law Society (MLS), Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the entire Civil Society Organizations community to provide the grouping with guidance on how the law can take its course on religious leaders who forces HIV/Aids patients to stop taking antiretroviral medication.

There reports that many people with HIV have died after they stopped taking antiretroviral drugs on the advice of their Christian pastors.

"Let me appeal to Malawi Law Society, Human Rights Commission to provide MIAA with guidance on how the law can take its course" said MIAA Executive Director Robert Ngaiyaye said in Lilongwe.

Ngaiyaye called on the government to do more to prevent faith leaders encouraging people with HIV to stop taking their drugs, saying this is a violation of their rights to health and life.

"It is not right to allow certain section of people to deprieve 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," added Ngaiyaye.

Ngaiyaye emphasized that it is high time his association get proper advice on the way forward on how to address the problem because the situation has gone out of hand.

He therefore called upon human rights activists and their organizations and the general public in general to support MIAA's course to ensure People living with HIV have the right to life.

For so long, many people have been told by religious leaders to stop taking the life prolonged drug for HIV!Aids patients after being prayed for.

Recently, a local newspaper reported that in Nkhatabay five people died after a religious leader asked the to abandon ARV's after he prayed for them.

"This is a very disturbing development and would like to appeal to religious leaders to stop this practice as it has no theological nor the holy scriptures backing,"said Ngaiyaye.

While calling upon the media to write more on the dangers of abandoning ARV's MIAA Executive Director has also requested people living with HIV/Aids themselves to be proactive by stopping listening to religious leaders who request them to stop taking ARVs.

Through MIAA, religious leaders agreed in 2008 that ARVs and prayers should go together.

Recent statistics indicates that thousands of people living with HIV/Aids have defaulted taking ARVs with Chikwawa being the highest district followed by Mangochi, Mchinji, Ntcheu, Karonga among others.

Ministry of Health spokesman said prayer is not a substitute for HIV treatment, advising that faith organisations can make a positive contribution to raising awareness of HIV by highlighting the benefits of testing and effective antiretroviral treatment.

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