[ACNS, by Peter Chipanga] The Bishop of the Upper Shire in Malawi, Brighton Malasa, has urged his fellow religious leaders to take a leading role in the fight against HIV and Aids by helping to spread the right information about the pandemic. Bishop Malasa made the remarks during commemorations for World Aids Day in the Zomba district in the east of Malawi.
Bishop Malasa said he had much concern about the wrong impression some religious leaders give to people suffering from HIV/Aids: “Some faith leaders send through their preaching some wrong messages to the people about HIV and Aids which encourages them to stop taking anti-retroviral therapy (ART),” he said.
He challenged those who failed to properly link prayers with the taking of ART; and described some preachers who claim they have powers to heal Aids as “a menace”.
“Such claims make some of their followers stop taking ART treatment before they are certified by medical personnel,” he said. “This increases the number of defaulters and [increases the] risk which subsequently leads to people dying.”
He asked all faith leaders to continue having faith in God and praying for the sick with righteousness; but said that while praying for those with HIV and Aids, pastors should “encourage them to continue accessing health services on HIV and Aids and any other prescribed drugs.”
The bishop also expressed worry over male participation in the fight against the pandemic saying that was another problem in Malawi as the majority of men shun HIV testing and instead rely on the results of their wives tests.
“It is high time we cultivated a good spirit in men so that they can start embracing a culture of accessing health services. After all, no-one can access ART treatment without testing.”
The Senior Nutrition, HIV and Aids Coordinator for Zomba district, Chriss Nawata explained that Bishop Malasa had been asked to be guest of honour at the event as a response to increasing numbers of people who stop taking medication after been prayed for.
“Our office appreciates that faith leaders have a crucial role to play in the fight against HIV/Aids,” he said. “With most defaults arising due to proclaimed healing which results in avoidable deaths, we thought a fellow faith leader could best pick the battle.”
The commemorations were supported by a range of organisations, including One Community, NAC, Future Vision Ministries, YONECO, Action Aid, and Christian Aid. The theme for the commemorations, which included drama, poetry, singing and dances, in addition to speeches, testimonies and HIV testing and counselling, was “The right to health: Access to quality HIV prevention and treatment for all”.