The Coalition of Women Living With HIV and Aids (COWLA) in Malawi has accused some religious leaders of being responsible for the deaths of people who were living with Aids by telling them to stop taking drugs and instead depend on prayer only.
COWLA further accuses the clergy of stopping other 4 000 members from taking the drugs threatening their lives in the process.
The coalition’s regional coordinator for the North Judith Mkandawire attacked the clergy on Thursday in Mzuzu at a meeting organised by Malawi Interfaith Aids Association (MIAA) for religious leaders and health officials to discuss the differences that arise between the two sides regarding medical treatment and divine healing.
Mkandawire, who said is also living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, had no kind words for the clergy in the country.
“You clergymen are responsible for the deaths of many people with Aids. Many of our friends have died because of you. You tell women with Aids to have faith and stop taking ARVs and many stopped taking the drugs and died. You are taking part in killing people,” said Mkandawire who disclosed that 10 women died last year after stopping taking ARVs when pastors told them to do so.
She urged the clergy to encourage people living with Aids to continue taking drugs and to pray for them.
“Your job is to pray for us,” she said.
MIAA projects officer Pilila Chiguma concurred with Mkandawire that some religious leaders are encouraging people living with Aids to stop taking drugs.
Chiguma called on people living with Aids not to stop taking ARVs because of prayers but get both, prayer and medication.
One of the clergymen at the meeting Prophet Rex Kalolo said there is blame game on handling HIV and Aids issues between the clergy and health officials because when Aids was reported in Malawi, the church was sidelined and so there was no civic education among church leaders.
“That is why there is blame game between the church and hospital people. At times we pastors castigate health people and on the other hand, hospital people castigate us pastors. But we need to work together. Members of the clergy should encourage people living with Aids to get medication and health officials should encourage those people to go for prayers,” said Kalolo.
According to Mzuzu City District Aids coordinator Harvey Limwado who cited National Aids Commission statistics, HIV infections have reduced from 89 000 in 2004 to 42 000 in 2014. He also said the HIV prevalence rate has reduced from 14.7 percent to 10 percent.
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