SOME religious leaders have asked their fellow clerics not to discourage HIV-positive worshippers from continuing using antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) on the ground that only prayers will heal them.
The call was made on Monday during a conference that brought together religion leaders and youths to discuss over best ways on how to fight HIV transmissions among young people.
The conference was part of the commemorations of the World Aids Day organized by the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS).
Commenting, Mbeya Regional Sheikh Msafiri Njalambaha said discouraging HIV/AIDS patients from taking drug was against holy teachings.
“The teachings from holy books say if a plague occurs and especially claiming lives of people, there is always a remedy and if not in place already, something should be done to make it available.
In the past there was no drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, but now ARVs are in place to fight the virus,” he said,
He added, “Covid-19 had no cure, but now the vaccine is in place and something is being done to develop permanent treatment.”
On her part, Restoration Bible Church (RBC) Pastor, Ms Basilisa Ndonde, questioned the rationale of religious leaders asking their churchgoers, who are HIV-positive not to take ARVs or related drugs for other opportunistic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, malaria.
She said: “Religious leaders have a role to play in directing their worshippers on best ways to preserve lives instead letting them succumb.”
The Moravian Church Mbeya Bishop, Mr Alinikisa Cheyo said religious leaders should first be educated on what ARVs are, and thereafter, promote its prescription to those already infected to save lives.
He further said that as religious leaders they have a role to encourage members of the public to normalize ARVs use-a move that will make HIV/AIDS patients feel comfortable and keep on taking doses as per experts’ directives.
“Currently, many people are secretly taking ARVs in fear of stigmatization, because the drugs are still perceived as not normal, unlike drugs for other health complications,” he said.
Commenting on stigmatization status in the country, TACAIDS Researcher, Mr Yahaya Mmbaga, said that according to 2021 Stigma Finding Report, the country has stepped ahead to fight the situation as there is a remarkable decrease, from 28 percent (2013) to 5.5 percent (2021).
However, he said stigmatization and discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients are still in the society, in different forms, especially in households, schools, colleges, workplaces and health centres.
Rungwe District Commissioner, Mr Vicent Naano, called for concerted efforts to fight HIV among the youth, adding that some findings show that those aged between 15 and 24 years contribute 40 percent of the transmissions.