Malawi religious leaders hindering HIV and AIDS mitigation interventions – Parliamentarian

Parliamentarian for Mwanza West, Paul Chibingu, says religious leaders are hampering HIV mitigation interventions by encouraging people to stop taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs after they receive “healing prayers.”

Chibingu made the observation during a policy dialogue meeting dinner organized by the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (MANET +) aimed at appreciating emerging issues from People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV).

He said while divine intervention may play a role in HIV and AIDS fight, it was wrong to encourage people living with HIV/AIDS to stop taking ARVs when they are prayed for and “healed.”

“Churches, especially Pentecostals, are hindering HIV/AIDS mitigation,” said Chibingu, “I have personal experience whereby I have seen people living with HIV stopping taking ARVs claiming that they are healed only to see their health deteriorating thereafter.”

Mauwa: We need to pool our  resources together

Mauwa: We need to pool our resources together

He said HIV/AIDS mitigation efforts require collective efforts from all sectors including the church hence, the need for proper guidance to people living with HIV.

Chibingu also called upon all political parties in the country to hold hands and stand together in the fight against the pandemic.

“To fight against HIV/AIDS we need to talk in one language even when we differ politically,” said the Mwanza West parliamentarian, “In Uganda for instance, they don’t consider which party one belongs to, but they look at the importance of the matter – and that’s how they have managed to arrest HIV prevalence rate.”

MANET+ engaged legislators from parliamentary committees namely the Budget and Financing, Legal Affairs, Health, and HIV/AIDS to discuss issues of funding commitment towards HIV and AIDS impact mitigation interventions; HIV-related stigma and discrimination as it relates to the “elite” and access to health services by adolescents living with HIV among other things.

On funding, the parliamentarians called on Government to commit more funds towards HIV/AIDS mitigation interventions and that there was need to have own drug manufacturing plant in the country.

“We need to pool our resources together and have our own plant so that we have home-manufactured,” suggested Chiradzulu North Member of Parliament, Margaret Roca Mauwa.

In his presentation MANET + Programme Officer, Eddie Banda, also noted that the “elite” were highly affected by HIV and AIDS and he challenged the dialogue to suggest an inclusive way that would allow the elite a forum to access information and medical care as regards HIV/AIDS.

The parliamentarians suggested number of ways among them formation of a closed cyber-social network group coordinated by an administrator where the elite could interact and share information either under their real names or anonymous names.

On access to health services by adolescents living with HIV, the dialogue agreed that parents keeping custody of children who were born with the virus ought to explain very clearly to them why the children take the drugs.

“When we delay in telling them the truth the children may learn from other sources and this would destroy their confidence, forcing them to abandon the drugs,” observed one contributor.

The dialogue also suggested establishing of youth friendly centres in the communities that would allow the children to interact freely on issues affecting their positive living.

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