Some religious leaders who claim to heal HIV/Aids infected people through prayers are jeopardising efforts to reduce the spread of the disease, especially in developing countries like Uganda, a United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) top official has said.
The UNAIDS country representative to Uganda, Ms Karusa Kiragu said on Tuesday that if religious leaders continue with the false claims, people living with the disease would stop taking drugs and resort to pastors’ prayers which will eventually lead them to death.
“When people are desperate, they look for anything to find hope and therefore, pastors are using this [nervousness] to confuse the population, an act which should stop,” Ms Karusa said during a regional consultative convention on HIV Treatment Adherence and Faith Healing in Africa, in Kampala
It was convened by the World Council of Churches.
She said this is a challenge which churches should look into and resolve immediately.
“There is a role of religion and there is a role of faith in our lives, it’s mainly to strengthen us to endure, but HIV is not a curable disease,” she said. “People who are propagating such [miraculous healing] messages are doing a disservice to the nation.”
She said the Church should sensitise people not to contract the disease and encourage those living with the disease, to access treatment.
On several occasions, a number of Born Again pastors across the world, Uganda inclusive, have claimed having special divine powers to pray and cure persons living with HIV/AIDS.
However, the president Mothers Union Namirembe Diocese, Ms Josephine Kasaato says the phenomenon of faith healing has complicated the HIV treatment and adherence, which issue faith- based organisations must address.
“In some instances, self-styled “prophets” and other religious leaders have discouraged their followers from initiating or continuing with antiretroviral treatment,” she said.
She said that if some people claim to have been healed after prayers, they should be tested to prove that they are free from the virus.
According to the 2016 Uganda population HIV/Aids Impact Assessment (UPHIA) survey, the adult HIV prevalence is higher among women at 7.5 per cent compared to 4.3 per cent among men.
The report also states the National HIV prevalence declined from 7.3 per cent to 6.0 per cent.