For this week alone, I have heard of at least two people that have died after stopping taking antiretroviral drugs after spiritual healing.

While Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has warned prophets to desist from ordering HIV-positive people and those suffering from other ailments like diabetes to stop taking drugs, saying it was dangerous, deaths reports from community members show that prophets still claim to cure HIV/Aids and other chronic illness.

Mabel Chazunguza, from Hatcliffe extension who claims to have lost a neighbor who died after attending a church in Harare where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God had healed them said church leaders have to save life.

“Its sad that despite advice that people should continue to take their life saving drugs after spiritual healing, some people are not, as they only take the word of their healers. I am urging all Christians to go for re-tests in the event of spiritual healing to ensure that they are truly healed.”

David Magura a Catholic said that there was nothing that stops church leaders who claim to heal HIV/Aids to urge their followers to get re-tested before claimimg that they are HIV/Aids free. “The bible is clear that all spirits should be tested and going for an HIV/Aids re-test is testing the spirit,” he said.

Tendai Gava who also claims to have lost a relative whom he said his CD4 count dropped to 20 after stopping taking ARV drugs after another church healing session said, “It’s just wrong and bad advice and there should be mechanisms to hold these people accountable who tell these sick people that God has healed them of HIV/Aids without taking them to testing centers to ascertain that they are truly free of the virus.”

Parirenyatwa earlier this year   urged Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi to come up with legal instruments to curb the practice as it could result in many deaths.

“It is a very bad practice that prophets and churches are saying they can cure people with holy water or oil,” Parirenyatwa is quoted in the media to have said.

“We know that the HIV virus cannot be removed through prayer and that it needs medicines. Even medicines do not cure HIV, but they only suppress the multiplication of the virus. That is why one needs to take ARVs for life.”

He said it was high time Mohadi criminalised the antics by false prophets.

“It is good to pray when a person is sick, but prayer needs to be complemented by medicines, otherwise if people are told to stop taking medicines we might experience many deaths,” Parirenyatwa said.

Popular preachers Walter Magaya, leader of Prophetic Healing Deliverance Ministries, Emmanuel Makandiwa (United Family International Church), TB Joshua of Synagogue Church of All Nations and other Pentecostal churches were some of the organisations known for dishing out holy oil to their followers to allegedly cure various ailments.

Many apostolic organisations in the country were also known to distribute “holy water” (muteuro) to their followers, which were said to cure many ailments including HIV and Aids.