HIV-infected Kenyans are being told that by a group of Pentecostal preachers that their anti-retroviral medication is useless, and that only the power of prayer will deliver them from the virus.
Worse, affected people are being asked to pay for their “healing” ceremonies.
According to this report, the ceremonies begin with a “miracle blessing” of the HIV-infected person. Afterwards, the pastor burns the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declares them “cured”. Then the church charges the person a fee and sends them on their way.
Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church located just outside of Nairobi, said:
I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.
But reports that people have given their life savings for the so-called “cure” have begun surfacing.
Margaret Lavonga said she was required to pay $12 just to be accepted as a candidate for the miracle treatment, and an additional $24 after it had been completed. The pastor then confiscated her meds and set them on fire. Afterwards, she was sent to a clinic for a “test” that confirmed she was HIV-free.
I was upbeat, but after two weeks I started falling sick. When I was tested, the virus was still in me and had multiplied since I was not taking the drugs.
INERELA+, an interfaith network of religious leaders living with or affected by HIV, reports that an average of 10 people per month undergo the “miracle” treatment in Nairobi. Their documents show as many as 2,000 total cases in Kenya as a whole.
In a country where HIV is still heavily stigmatised, many people turn to the so-called “cure” out of fear or because they don’t want to follow a lifelong drug regimen. But quitting treatment can be dangerous as it can cause a person to become resistant to the drugs. It can also lead to death, which has been the case for many individuals. Four people who participated in the healing ceremony with Lavonga died within a month.
It’s estimated that 1.6 million people are currently living with HIV in Kenya. So far, the government has not taken any action to stop the pastors from promoting the bogus cure, despite the thousands of people who have been hurt or who have died as a result.
Hat tip: George Broadhead