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Faith healers urged to encourage ART

The Parliamentary Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids has recommended that traditional and faith healers should encourage people to take anti-retroviral treatment (ART) even after undergoing herbal or spiritual healing.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

The committee visited different organisations to find out how the ART roll-out programme was being administered at health institutions in Harare. They found that some traditional and faith healers had pronounced some patients healed after administering herbal or spiritual healing.

The committee, chaired by Midlands senator Lillian Timveos, last week presented its first report on the ART roll-out programme in some health institutions in Harare.

“The committee learned with great disappointment that some traditional and faith healers pronounced patients healed, causing them to stop taking their [anti-retroviral drugs] ARVs, and a few months after stopping ARVs the patients inevitably die,” reads the committee report.

“Traditional and faith healers should encourage people to continue to take their ART medication even after herbal and spiritual healing to stop the needless loss of lives.”

The report said faith-based influence on adherence was a cause for concern for the committee as prophets told patients they were healed. This has caused patients to abandon ART.

At prisons, the committee noted that most prisoners who were HIV-positive did not get adequate food. They said the little food prisoners got did not make up a balanced-diet and was not nutritionally-balanced for HIV-positive people on ART.

The committee said at Chikurubi Prison Hospital, the psychiatrist told them that prisoners with mental health problems died unnecessarily because the law did not permit testing for HIV without the consent of the patient or that of their next of kin

“The hospital authorities were advocating for law reforms which can enable prison health workers to test mentally-ill patients for HIV in order to save their lives. HIV-positive prisoners are admitted to Chikurubi without medical records, and this causes them to default on taking ART and makes them vulnerable to deteriorating health.”

Chikurubi Prison Hospital is said to have reported over 100 Aids-related deaths in 2014.

The committee said during their investigations they found that several hospitals were experiencing shortages of CD4 count machines, with some of the machines having broken down.

In some instances, some hospitals lacked qualified personnel to operate the CD4 count machines.

“All the healthcare centres like Chikurubi Prison Hospital, Wilkins Hospital, Mbare Poly clinic are in need of viral load machines to help with the monitoring of HIV-positive patients’ progress,” the committee said.

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