FAITH leaders in some West African churches in the UK have
pressured HIV patients to stop taking their medication and trust in
prayer instead, a survey by the charity African Health Policy
Network (AHPN) suggests.
Cases where patients were told by their church leaders to stop
taking the anti-retrovirals have been reported in churches in
London, Manchester, Leeds, and across the north-west.
The survey found examples of cases where treatment had
been restarted, after faith healing, as well as others where the
health and mental health of clients declined, in some instances
leading to death. Many of the respondents were reluctant to give
the names of pastors or churches involved.
The AHPN, which deals with health inequalities for the African
population in the UK, is calling on the Government to do more to
prevent faith leaders' encouraging HIV patients to stop taking
their drugs. The chief executive of AHPN, Francis Kaikumba, said
that churches and religious leaders already did a great deal of
supportive work with HIV patients, but that some needed
"Faith leaders and churches can play a very positive role in the
lives of people living with HIV/Aids," he said.
"They are often the first port of call and a source of support
and hope. But, in a few churches, these practices exist, and we
want to work with faith leaders to monitor what is going on in
churches around HIV. We would encourage them to work with
clinicians when people approach them to talk about their
The charity has published a list of recommendations for
clinicians, local authorities, and churches, urging them to work
together. It said: "AHPN recognises that faith plays a crucial role
in the lives of many African individuals and is an important aspect
of many African communities in the UK.
"Whilst faith intersects positively with health as a source of
spiritual guidance and hope for those living with long-term health
conditions, faith and HIV can often interact negatively. Not only
is the perpetuation of stigma some-
thing that must continue to be addressed by faith
but the issue of transactional faith 'healing' claims are harmful,
life-threatening, and should not be tolerated."
The findings of the survey are to be published in full next