Commentary: Do pastors really have the cure for HIV/AIDS? Cultural beliefs and often times lack of funds prevent ordinary Ghanaians from seeking medical help when they get sick and for a long time. For some, it's much cheaper and easier to consult a pastor or a herbalists with often results in no recovery. The article below is an interesting read, especially with the current trend where pastors claim to have 'cures' for all kinds of diseases and their followers believe them. In most of such churches the majority of the followers and therefore, victims, are women.
‘My pastor said he’d healed me of HIV’
The Ghanaian Times, Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Page 7
Akrong Seth’s pastor at church told him that he had cured him of HIV and then assured him it was not necessary to visit a clinic.
When Seth visted a doctor and was informed that he was still HIV positive, he called the physician a liar. “The pastor has cured me,” he said. “And I kept pumping into women.” He did not use condoms.
He attended the church for two years, and spent more than GH¢4,000 paying the pastor for various treatments. Seth finally confronted the pastor after his wife became infected with the virus. “When I told [the pastor] that I was HIV positive and my wife as positive, he (pastor) told me that foreign blood had come to me.”
It wasn’t until Seth witness the death of hundreds of people that he finally returned to his doctor to be placed on anti-retroviral drugs, which he has been using for five years. The 57-year-old has been infected with HIV for 17 years, and continues to live with his wife at Korle-Bu. His experience motivated him to campaign for HIV awareness. “In 1982, I was going around churches and villages telling them that HIV is real. If you follow the pastor, you will lose your life. Anyone who tells you that ‘I have a cure’ is a liar.”
Despite the high knowledge of how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS infections, many Ghanaians continue to relay on traditional cultural beliefs to avoid the disease, according to UN officials. This misinformation and denial is killing people.
Esi Awotwi, National HIV/AIDS Programme Officer at the United Nation’s Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), says reducing the stigma associated with the illness, encouraging people to get tested and improving access to anti-retroviral medications and other HIV services are the primary ways of fighting the spread of HIV?AIDS in Ghana. She acknowledges that some cultural ideas and behaviours are impeding these remedies. “We will still have some people visiting herbalists, people still visiting prayers camps for a cure,” she says.
Gifty Torkunu, went to a church to get anointed for a cure when she was diagnosed with HIV six years ago. “I was given two bottles of anointed oil and I drank and I vomited and the pastor told me that I had vomited the virus,” Torkunu, 45, says. She repeated the practices five times, returning to the church for the treatments, before she learned of her HIV-positive status from a doctor, joined a support group and began to take conventional medicine.
“Because of my denial,” she says, “my son died four months ago after becoming infected through my breast milk.”
“The problem we have in this country is that we are God-fearing people,” Torkunu says. “Any problem we have to take it to God, so whatever pastors says, we do. Some people are convinced that if I pray or if I do this without the anti-retroviral drugs, you will be cured. But if God will cure me, it will surely come from above not from the pastor.”
She explained that traditionally in Ghana, people with HIV are thought to be bewitched. “they wouldn’t take you to the hospital. But if you don’t know your status, and think, ‘I don’t know, so I must be oaky,’ you are defeating yourself.”