John (not his real name) tested HIV-positive in 2012 and he was advised by medical doctors to start taking anti-retroviral therapy (ARTs). John’s HIV-positive status made him turn to God and he started worshiping with other people at Area 36 in Lilongwe.
He put his life in the hands of God and trusted the pastors with all his heart. One day, the pastor advised worshippers who were HIV-positive to bring bottles containing their ART drugs the following day. When John and others brought the bottles, the pastor prayed for them and declared them HIV-negative. The pastor went further, telling them that there was no need to test their HIV status again because God was in control.
“The youthful pastor prayed for us. He said with God everything is possible and He can remove HIV from our blood and become HIV-negative again. Since that day I stopped taking ARTs, and I threw the bottle away,” says John.
But it did not take long before John frequently falling sick. The situation worsened so much that he could not do otherwise, but return to the hospital where he was given other ARTs; of course, after being seriously counselled for his ‘carelessness’.
This is one incident that mirrors many, which make people wonder whether prayers can replace ARTs for HIV-positive people.
Recently, village head Ngalauka Wapachanya, of Traditional Authority (T/A) Malanda in Nkhata Bay announced that five people died in his village after being advised by a pastor to abandon their life-prolonging therapy.
He revealed this during a caucus organised by the National Association for People Living with HIV and Aids in Malawi (Napham), when the association gathered members of the pastors’ fraternity to express its concern over the dangerous practice by the pastors.
The village head literally shed tears as he described how he lost his nephew following a pastor’s decree and claim that he was completely healed following a deliverance session.
But pastor Wilson Chafutsa of Assemblies of God at Chitedze in Lilongwe says prayers cannot replace ARTs; hence, people should not stop taking ARTs.
“My stand is that even if people have been prayed for, they should continue taking ARTs. Indeed, God heals when He wishes to, but stopping people from taking ARTs is like trusting in prayer more than in God Himself. When you pray you wait for an answer. God’s answer can be a yes, no or wait. So after being prayed for, you don’t stop taking medicine. Being prayed for is not a guarantee that you are healed,” says Chafutsa.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul is talking about the problem he had in his body. He calls it a thorn. He prayed about it for three times that God should remove it. But God did not. Chafutsa says this means not every prayer for healing that is offered to God receives a ‘yes’ as an answer.
“Why did God say no to Paul? He did not heal Paul because His grace is sufficient, whether we are sick or not. We should continue taking ARTs as we are praying about it. Only when we are tested negative, then we can stop taking ARTs. We should be tested and the medical personnel should advise so. Why? They are the ones who advised you to start taking ARTs. So, pastors should not advise otherwise,” adds Chafutsa. n