Balaka District Hospital principal clinical officer Dickson Mambulu has bemoaned the high number of people who defaulted antiretroviral therapy (ART) between June 2017 and July 2018 due to religious beliefs.
In response to findings by Development Communications Trust (DCT) on religious leaders who discourage patients from taking ART, the officer said although there are varied reasons for defaulting the drugs, religious beliefs have significantly contributed to the problem.
“By any standards, 2 500 defaulters is considerably high and we are doing follow-ups to convince them to go back on treatment because defaulting ART has consequences for the individual and the community at large,” he said.
The clinician said apart from the health status of the defaulter deteriorating, defaulting breeds drug resistance.
Chippoh Simon, 27, from Miliyoni Village in group village head Chiyendausiku said she almost died after a prophet ordered her to throw away her antiretroviral drugs, claiming that she was healed.
“I was put on ART in 2006 but when I approached a prophet because of some marital problems, he stopped me from taking medication after he prayed for me,” she said.
DCT projects coordinator Zione Mayaya said the organisation uses radio listening clubs to enhance citizens’ participation in demanding universal health coverage through transparency and accountability processes.
The programme seeks to increase access to health services of marginalised groups.