Prayer for AIDS

In Kenya, some Pentecostal ministers are praying for a cure for AIDS, but in a very destructive way. Normally, I would consider people in church praying for healing to be perhaps a comforting thing to do, but not to have any particular harmful effects. Of course, there are examples where people have eschewed medical treatment in favour of prayer, and that’s where it can get deadly. That’s what is happening in Kenya, and while to ministers claim they don’t charge for their efforts, some families are giving up their worldly savings.

At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.

“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”…

Margaret Lavonga attended a healing prayer service several years ago. She said she paid money for a prayer cure and nearly ended up dead after the pastor told her and others to stop taking their medicines.

“We were very desperate after realizing we had been infected as young women,” she said.

At the church, she was asked to pay the equivalent of $12 to be accepted for the healing ceremony and $24 at the end of the ceremony. The pastor then confiscated her drugs and those of four others and set them ablaze. The group was asked to undergo a test at a certain clinic in Nairobi, where they were all declared cured.

People are raised and trained to trust those who wear clerical robes. This trust has led to the scale of the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and the deaths of others who have depended upon   faith healing.

Some 6.3 million people are receiving anti-retroviral drugs in hospitals and clinics across eastern and southern Africa. The prayer healings are especially worrisome because people who quit treatment may become resistant to the drugs….

Officials with INERELA+, an international organization, said that in Nairobi alone, an average of 10 people a month fall victim to such pastors. Countrywide, the organization has recorded 2,000 such cases. When their health worsens, people seek help restarting the medicines.

Religious beliefs have interfered with the epidemic of AIDS in a number of ways. There are those who believe that AIDS is a consequence of immoral activities such as homosexuality or drug abuse. Others, such as the Catholic Church, campaign against the use of condoms as being inherently evil. Then there are the faith healers described above who are killing their followers for profit or ignorance.

Faith does not prevent or cure disease.

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