Windhoek — Khomas regional governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua yesterday condemned the charismatic churches operating in Namibia that discourage HIV positive members from taking their antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) prescriptions.
This stance, the governor says, counter-fought the nation's efforts to address HIV/AIDS.
The governor stated that some charismatic churches are "culprits" in that they discourage their infected members from taking ARVs, claiming they would be healed through prayer.
"We have some churches that tell our people to throw away their medication and pray because they will be healed. In the end, these people die," observed the governor, who yesterday spoke at a meeting organised for Regional AIDS Coordinating Committees (RACOCs).
"I don't know how best to deal with this issue because we cannot talk to the Council of Churches in Namibia because we are told that these churches are not members."
She said there was need to gather the charismatic churches under one umbrella organisation in order to better understand their activities and modus operandi.
"Let's get them under one roof," emphasised McLeod-Katjirua.
The governor also observed that some drug addicts and abusers use ARVs 'to get high', a practice she discouraged.
"If somebody says 'give me your tablets and I will give you N$500' that person [owner of medicine] would obviously comply because they don't have anything," said the governor, adding that there should be avenues to explore on methods to encourage people to use the life-saving drugs for their intended use.
Additionally, government resources are not optimally used for their intended purpose, the governor emphasised. "Somehow the medication (ARVs) is not serving its purpose because it's being abused."
She further stated that with ARVs, people can have a normal life and be productive. She was however quick to point out that stigma against people living with HIV needs to be addressed in order to encourage more people to get tested for the virus.
"When AIDS came we lost people but that is because there was no treatment. It takes an individual to accept that they are HIV positive.
We are not all the same. When some people hear that they are HIV positive they contemplate suicide and that is partly because of the society in which we live.
The society is not supportive. We need to change the way we do things so that everybody can be accepted," McLeod-Katjirua commented.