18 January 2018
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Tuesday, 26 December 2017 09:35

EAM meeting faults pastors for inflicting more suffering on PLHIV

Written by  Mphatso Nkuonera

Salima, 26 December, 2017: Over forty churches have blamed use of condemning messages on People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and lack of knowledge on government policies as major factors for the increase in new HIV infections and deaths in the country.

Pastors under Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) made the observation during an awareness campaign meeting for church leaders on current government stand on HIV/AIDS services.

The pastors also observed that some church doctrines were tearing off the 90:90:90 government policy, leading to more antiretroviral therapy (ART) defaulters, concealing of status and self-denial, resulting to more deaths.

“It’s high time pastors stopped using hate messages on infected sheep in our churches, instead, they should talk on this matter openly and kindly so that congregants find churches’ fountains of comfort.

“This would attract PLHIV to disclose their cero-status and be free in mind, but now they are scared of being bullied by the very pastors who should have offered happiness instead of hurting, is this God’s love?” Evas Ajusi, pastor for Glad Tidings wondered.

Ajusi attracted applause from the gathering when he just walked to the front and openly disclosed that he was living with the HIV virus.

“Pastors should not pretend to be holier than [ordinary] members. You cannot give someone what you do not possess. After the discussions in this meeting I have decided to disclose that I am infected, for the first time,” he said amid handclapping from the participants.

Some of the key factors that were spelled out as speeding the spread of HIV were concealing of one’s status, poverty, refusal to go for HIV Testing and Counseling and unwillingness to follow or use ART.

“Pastors should open up on their status to the church members and more members will publicly disclose their status.  Until when will discussing HIV and AIDS matters in the open be a taboo? The church leaders need more civic education on this.

“Government should also consider screwing its nails by asking churches that are stopping their members from accessing clinical medicine to repeal their doctrines or meet serious disciplinary action,” Salima EAM District chairman, Hope Galawanda said.

The meeting that also drew several participants from EAM non-member churches was patronized by 41 pastors where 35 were male and six were female.

Jamison Ofesi, representing Zion Bata told Malawi News Agency (Mana) the meeting was important because churches had learnt that besides advancing individual doctrines they must have the welfare of its members at heart.

“Available religious umbrella bodies must be empowered to bite hard on such denominations which still think that what this meeting has agreed is wrong.

“Yes, it depends on an individual church member’s strength of faith, but I think some pertinent issues should not be handled individually,” Ofesi stated.  

The 41 pastors who were drawn from nine districts of the central region overwhelmingly agreed to start implementing their observations immediately and be able to give feedback in upcoming meetings.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population Services, about 88 per cent of people contract the HIV virus through sexual intercourse between opposite sex, 10 per cent is passed on from mothers to baby while 2 per cent contract it through other means. 

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