Complications, even death as patients default

Rev Phumzile Mabizela

Rev Phumzile Mabizela

Catherine Murombedzi HIV Walk
THERE comes a time when someone on chronic medication gets fatigue from taking their daily doses and feel like giving up. For anyone with a chronic condition be it hypertension, diabetes, is HIV positive or has kidney ailment, one needs to have a ‘medic buddy’. A ‘medic buddy’ is someone who reminds one to take their medication on time and this buddy does not tire of telling one that its time to take medication.

Surely as fatigue sets in a chronic patient if not properly handled can end up desperate and seek alternative solutions to daily doses of medication. With the spreading of healing schools more people are defaulting on chronic medication with dire consequences.

Congregants must be wary of false healing as healing never took enmasse even in biblical times.

Dr Tapuwanashe Bwakura speaking at a feedback meeting after the Sydney AIDS Conference 2014 in Harare last year said there was an upsurge in patients defaulting after having been ‘healed’ at some prophetic and healing churches.

“At Harare Central Hospital where I work, it is not unusual to find that half of the bed occupancy is due to defaulting patients. A peculiar issue is that the whole arm is filled with bangles declaring that they are children of this pastor. ‘Ndiri mwana wemuporofita’. Surprisingly the patient was on chronic medication and would have stopped taking their medication after having received their healing,” said Dr Bwakura.

Dr Bwakura said this is a new challenge which if left unchecked can result in medical institutions falling to cope with the influx of drug resistant patients.

“The fact that the patient was on medication and stopped means when they fall sick it is usually with complications and the patient now needs a stronger regimen than that which was administered before. It is very expensive to be moving patients on to second line medication when in fact they were doing well on the first line medication. For hypertension the patients usually present with strokes which are fatal and for HIV positive patients the host of infections play up on the patients that they get meningitis, recurrent tuberculosis and this is unfortunate as it could have been avoided,” said Dr Bwakura.

Recently two chronic patients had to be rushed to hospital after their health deteriorated while attending a church service at Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries led by Prophet Magaya. The two were first rushed to West End hospital where the hospital further referred them to Parirenyatwa Hospital. The 45-year old man was diabetic and the 17-year old girl was asthmatic. The two died at the hospital before being attended to.

The umbrella body for the churches under Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) called on all churches to let their congregants follow their doctors’ instructions.

“We as church leaders do not condone pastors calling on their members to stop taking any medication prescribed by their doctors in the belief that they would have been healed. The conference leaders said this was not so as prayer was complementary to taking medication,” said Rev Lindani Dube, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe.

“Churches must encourage people to adhere to medication prescribed by doctors instead of advocating for harmful religious practices which discourage the uptake of medicine in the name of ‘faith’. While the Bible abounds in promises of healing, it remains God’s sole preserve to heal in His time and through means He sees fit.

“God cannot be manipulated by ascetic tendencies and overzealous emotions which are theologically inconsistent with sound biblical teaching and acceptable societal values. Miracles are part of God’s agenda in carrying out missions, but they must be within the confines of correct scriptural interpretation and ethics. Once one is put on medication by a competent medical practitioner, it suffices for a practitioner to confirm the miraculous intervention and advice appropriately with regards to the continuity or discontinuity of medication.

“Church leaders therefore must desist from encouraging members not to take medication, without professional advice, but rather to stand in solidarity with doctors in their God given wisdom towards the support of the common good,” said Rev Dube.

Reverend Phumzile Mabizela Executive Director of INERELA+, speaking at a regional symposium on sexual reproductive health rights in Lusaka last December said only false pastors called on their congregants to stop taking medication.

“Only false prophets in self seeking glory tell their congregants that by their faith they are healed. There is nothing like that. If you hear your pastor say: ‘By your faith you are healed’ run away as fast as you can. They take their medication in privacy yet urge members to stop taking medication with dire consequencies,” said Rev Mabizela.

Dr Owen Mugurungi the Director in the AIDS and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the majority of people started on ART in 2004 are still alive and with correct adherence will die of other ailments not related to HIV.

“We have over 90 percent of people initiated on ART in 2004 still doing well on medication today. These people were started when they were very ill and have adhered to the regimens which have seen them up and going to work. We no longer have many cases of patients bed ridden due to the success of the ART programme. We are therefore no longer relying on CD4 count as a measure of health but moving on to use the viral load which is World Health Organisation stand regulation of checking the amount of virus in the blood,” Dr Mugurungi said.

“With one adhering to medication correctly and consistently a client’s viral load will be undetectable with time. Undetectable meaning that the amount of virus in the blood is now too little to be picked up hence undetectable,” he explained.

It could be that HIV positive patients claiming to be healed now have undetectable viral loads.

Stopping medication without the doctor’s advice is a sure guarantee of booking a berth in the graveyard.

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