Continue treatment, people living with HIV advised

BBC report shows some Evangelical Christian pastors discourage people from taking ARVs

Sexual health organisations have urged church leaders to stop discouraging HIV positive people from taking life saving HIV treatments.

The call came after the BBC reported that some Evangelical Christian pastors were encouraging people to stop HIV treatments.

At least three people in London with HIV have died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

Terrence Higgins Trust’s Head of Health Improvement, Ben Tunstall, said: “It’s incredibly worrying to hear that individuals have been giving out advice about HIV treatments which is putting lives at risk. We work closely with churches across the UK, raising awareness of HIV and encouraging people to get tested and start treatment at the earliest possible stage, and we urge anyone living with HIV to continue the treatments prescribed by their health professionals.  

“Our resource provides accurate and detailed information about HIV and treatment options, as well as community forums where people living with the virus can ask questions and gain support on anything related to HIV.”  

The African Health Policy Network (AHPN) said that while faith plays a significant role in the lives of individuals in the UK, there still exist significant low levels of knowledge about the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs. This is hampering and undermining the great work done by those who are striving to improve access to HIV treatment.  

AHPN said that faith and prayer can play a significant part in the wellbeing of individuals, but it is not and cannot be a substitute for medical care and treatment particularly HIV.

“AHPN is very concerned about the actions of some faith leaders who are giving misleading information to some vulnerable individuals on HIV treatment. Faith leaders occupy a position of trust and should not abuse this trust by influencing people to take actions that will lead them to harm,” Eunice Sinyemu, head of policy and deputy CEO at the AHPN.

A person living with HIV commented: “As someone living with HIV, I value the use of both ARVs and prayer to help me lead a balanced life. While prayer is for wellbeing, HIV treatment is essential to protect my health and prayer shouldn’t replace treatment.”