BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
OVER 35 HIV/Aids positive patients on life prolonging, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in Chiredzi and Chikombedzi are reported to have defaulted on their medication over the past three months.
This has been linked to the teachings and doctrines of many sprouting faith-based organisations, particularly traditional and pentecostal churches.
Chiredzi acting district medical officer (DMO), who is also Chiredzi General Hospital medical superintendent, David Tarumbwa, confirmed the increase in default rate.
“Thirty five is a very big number. Even if it was only five people that defaulted; that will be a cause for concern. So, 35 is a health disaster,” Tarumbwa said.
Last year, Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader, Walter Magaya (pictured) caused a storm after he claimed to have found the cure for HIV/Aids. Magaya said the cure was a herb called Aguma and would destroy the HIV virus in just 14 days.
The claim raised a furore with HIV activists saying it would increase default rates. Magaya was subsequently convicted of contravening the Medicines Control Act.
“I will personally look into this because I feel it might not necessarily be Magaya only, but other churches also or other reasons. We usually have less than five defaulters in a month, but this needs urgent investigation to establish the cause.”
Tarumbwa added: “As Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), we urge all patients on ART to continue taking their medication religiously. We don’t expect such a large number of people to default given that we have the drugs in stock to cater for all those on ART.
“I think there is real need to revisit those Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) lessons to remind our patients what they learnt before they were put on ART,” Tarumbwa said.
Family of God in Zimbabwe pastor Mandlenkosi Tshabalala, who is also secretary for the Chiredzi Pastors’ fraternity, said people should take their medication as instructed.
“We urge patients to take their medication as instructed. Some of our pastors just utter unrealistic things. Yes, (some) might have revelations and miraculously heal people, but we urge patients to continue with their medication,” Tshabalala said.
Masvingo National Aids Co-ordinator (NAC) provincial manager, Edgar Muzulu said NAC would engage MoHCC to map the way forward.
“It’s very unfortunate that in such a short space of time a large number of HIV patients have already defaulted. Our message to HIV patients is that the only medication for HIV so far the world over is the ARVs.
“If there is anyone who is saying HIV can be cured, we can only say that’s just a myth. ARVs can suppress HIV to undetectable levels, but that does not mean it (HIV) is no longer in that person’s body or that person is cured. So far there is no cure for HIV/Aids,” Muzulu said.
Family Aids Caring Trust Chiredzi director, Ropafadzo Magwaza said: “We encourage people to continue taking their medication. Currently there is no cure for HIV. Pastors should not mislead their congregants. The Aguma pill hasn’t gone through any clinical trials. There is need for it to be a certified cure.
“It is important to remain on ARVs and religiously take them as per doctor’s orders. Only a medical doctor is licenced to remove anyone from ARVs if he/she deems it fit to do so.”