BY Phyllis Mbanje
The National Aids Council (Nac) Bulawayo provincial manager Sinatra Nyathi has raised concern over the deaths of people with HIV and Aids who stopped taking antiretroviral drugs after being told to do so by faith healers and “prophets”.
Nyathi said the issue was slowing down mitigatory programmes which sought to stem further spread of the disease as well as prolong lives of those infected.
“I was saddened to witness the deaths of about five people who I knew personally who succumbed to the disease after being told to stop medication by their prophets,” Nyathi told NewsDay recently.
“Although Nac has been working with churches in their interventions there remained a big headache (given) the mushrooming of new churches which are led by these prophets and faith healers.
“We are urging people on antiretroviral therapy (Art) not to throw away their drugs. We are currently raising awareness in the communities.”
Although she could not provide statistics on the number of people who have died after defaulting, Nyathi said any death linked to this was an issue of concern.
She also said while they had nothing against prayer, their worry was on patients being discharged from taking medication in the absence of a qualified doctor.
“We are not saying people should not pray, but patients must continue taking their medication as prescribed by their doctors,” Nyathi said.
Defaulting on Art often leads to viral resistance, treatment failure and increased risks of disease progression.
Last year it was reported that about 4 000 HIV positive people in Bulawayo were on second and third line Art after defaulting from the recommended first line regimen.
“There is need for further engagement with the faith-based organisations and impress upon them the need to ensure that those on Art are allowed to do so without any interruptions,” Nyathi said.
Previously there have been many false claims on cures for Aids. In 2018 leader and founder of the PHD Ministries Walter Magaya announced his controversial HIV and Aids herbal remedy, Aguma.
He was widely condemned for prematurely announcing cure before seeking government clearance.
He was subsequently charged with contravening section 40(1) of the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act, which criminalises the distribution of unapproved medicines and misleading advertisement of such.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is working towards ensuring that by end of this year, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, receive sustained Art and have viral suppression.