Madzibaba using milk to baptise followers (photo: S. Mlambo).

Madzibaba using milk to baptise followers (photo: S. Mlambo).

Southern Africa HIV and Aids Information Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS) is set to work with the apostolic community as it scale up its efforts to reduce the spread of HIV and Aids.

Zimbabwe is among the countries with high HIV prevalence rate. According to the 2010-11 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), there has been a slight decrease in Zimbabwe’s HIV prevalence since 2005-06. “15 percent of Zimbabwean adults are HIV-positive compared with 18 percent in the 2005-06,” reads part of the report.

SAFAIDS senior programme officer, Renias Mundingi, said his organisation got funding for the next three years to scale up the programmes in the hard to reach populations- the apostolic sect, farming areas and the mining areas.

“The apostolic community is a very important community as far as addressing HIV issues is concerned for young people,” Mundingi said.

He added: “Most of them do not go to hospitals and clinics and the result is that there is loss of life for the mother and loss of life for the child.”

In many African countries, apostolic sects have been formed by local Christians who broke away from mainline churches such as the Methodist or Anglican churches. They are called apostolic sects since the leaders call themselves apostles and the group is usually named after its leader.

Members are prohibited from seeking treatment in hospitals or taking conventional medicine when they fall ill.

The radical sects believe conventional medicine is evil. Members who seek modern medical care risk punishment from church leaders including suspension or excommunication.

Mundingi said SAFAIDS will work together with the apostolic so that they need to allow children to go to school and do other developmental activities in their lives.

“We feel that if we work with the apostolic to say that we need to modify some of the religious practices such as early marriages so that young people get married at the right time.”  

Members of the apostolic faith believe in divine healing for all forms of sickness and disease. This message is repeatedly preached to the church’s members, encouraging them to obey the message religiously throughout their lives.

They are to rely on the holy water (muteuro) and prayers from the church elders to cure illnesses and diseases. It’s tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation within the church.

Mundingi added: “We have realised that most people get married at an early age. There is child pledging and what is happening is that most of these young people get into these marriages out of their own will.

“There are a lot of birth complications because the birth canals of the girls would not be ready for labour.”

 According to a research carried by Unicef called Apostolic Religion, Health and Utilisation of Maternal and Child Health Services in Zimbabwe: the religious teaching, doctrine and regulations of ultra-conservative Apostolic groups (e.g. Johanne Marange, Johanne Masowe Sabbath (ye Sabata), Madhidha), because of their emphases on faith healing and strict adherence to church beliefs and practices, tend to undermine modern health-seeking or use of modern health services.

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