Some African Spiritual, Cult Leaders Hindering Efforts To Curb HIV/AIDS, Conference Attendees Say
Spiritual and cult leaders who claim they can cure HIV/AIDS are hindering efforts to curb the spread of the disease in Africa, researchers and scientists who attended an HIV/AIDS international conference in Kisumu, Kenya, said recently, the East African Standard/AllAfrica.com reports. Conference attendees said that under the advice of some spiritual leaders, many HIV-positive people in rural parts of Africa opt for prayers and other spiritual remedies, rather than antiretroviral drugs, to treat their HIV.
Sheikh Niang, a professor from Senegal who attended the conference, urged African governments to enlist the help of spiritual and cult leaders in efforts to curb HIV, as the Rwandan government has done. Mvurilia Nadine, a community health worker from Rwanda, told the more than 500 conference participants that treating HIV/AIDS should be a priority over religious practices on the continent. "Let us remain religious and maintain our rich culture but know that there is no known shortcut," except antiretrovirals, to prolonging the lives of HIV-positive people, Niang said. Nadine added that the Rwandan government has "resolved to support community health workers" in their efforts to curb the spread of HIV. Conference participants also discussed the African practice of wife inheritance and said that although it is part of African culture, it should be practiced with caution. In addition, Richard Muga, director of Kenya's National Coordinating Agency for Population and Development, said it is critical that people who are remarrying receive an HIV test. Participants at the conference agreed that until spiritual and cult leaders began to claim they could cure HIV, poverty was the main obstacle in the fight against the disease, the Standard/AllAfrica.com reports (Ayodo, East African Standard/AllAfrica.com, 5/4).