Draft Legislation Seeks To Protect People in Malawi From Healers Claiming To Cure HIV/AIDS
Malawi lawmakers on Tuesday began examining draft legislation that aims to prevent traditional healers from claiming that they can cure HIV/AIDS, AFP/Mail & Guardian reports. Mary Shawa, principal secretary for nutrition and HIV/AIDS at the president's office, announced the legislation last week.
The bill seeks to "regulate and protect people from healers who prescribe sex with albinos, the disabled or virgins as a cure for HIV and AIDS," Shawa told a Parliamentary committee that was asked to provide input on the measure before it is submitted to the full Parliament later this year. Under the measure, the country's 30,000 traditional healers -- many of whom work in rural towns and villages -- would be required to register with a board created by the Ministry of Health. Shawa said that when the bill "passes into law, all traditional healers claiming to cure AIDS will be dealt with." She did not provide details on possible punishments for healers who claim to cure the disease. The bill was drafted in collaboration with traditional Malawi healers and the World Health Organization, AFP/Mail & Guardian reports (AFP/Mail & Guardian, 3/4).
The bill also would seek to prevent religious leaders from advising their congregations to give up antiretroviral treatment for prayer. The Malawi Council of Churches last month said that five HIV-positive people who had been taking antiretrovirals died after their church pastor advised them to stop taking the drugs because the pastor said they had been cured by prayer (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/27).
According to AFP/Mail & Guardian, newspaper and radio advertisements for HIV/AIDS cures also are common in Malawi. A United Nations-funded study last year found that about 60% of people ages 15 to 49 in Malawi lack knowledge about HIV prevention. According to official figures, 14% of Malawi's 12 million residents are living with HIV, and there are about 78,000 AIDS-related deaths and 100,000 new cases annually (AFP/Mail & Guardian, 3/4).