- Title: MALAWI: Malawi drafts law against "healers" of AIDS
- Date: 24th March 2008
- Summary: GRANT CHIPANGULA, PRESIDENT OF MALAWI TRADITIONAL HEALERS ASSOCIATION, ARRANGING CERTIFICATES ON THE WALL OF HIS OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Chichewa) GRANT CHIPANGULA, PRESIDENT, MALAWI TRADITIONAL HEALERS ASSOCIATION, SAYING: "The MPs who will be meeting soon must advocate more research in the country on herbal medicine so that we can produce more and export more herbal anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. We cannot allow the government to arrest traditional healers for doing their job. If they want to punish us or arrest us they should start with those that are bringing ARVs in Malawi. We are going to protest against the proposed law."
- Embargoed: 8th April 2008 13:00
- Location: Malawi
- Country: Malawi
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVADX9Q7IFTJY6BQWHM525UAVT1N
- Story Text: Malawi's government has drafted a law to stop traditional healers and religious leaders who claim that they can cure AIDS.
Malawi has drafted a law to stop traditional healers from claiming they can cure AIDS and religious leaders from advising their flocks to discard treatment in favour of prayer.
Recently the Malawi Council of Churches said five AIDS patients on anti-retroviral treatment died after their church pastor advised them to stop taking the medication because they had been healed by prayer.
Malawi, with a population of about 13 million, ranks among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, home to two-thirds of those infected with HIV/AIDS world-wide.
The draft law was presented to parliament early this month but has not yet been passed into law.
Officials from the government's HIV/AIDS department say that when the law passes, all the traditional healers claiming to cure AIDS and religious leaders stopping people from taking ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS) will be "dealt with".
Grant Chipangula, the president of the Malawi's traditional healer's association, said his members would protest against the proposed law.
He said: "The MPs who will be meeting soon must advocate more research in the country on herbal medicine so that we can produce more and export more herbal anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. We cannot allow the government to arrest traditional healers for doing their job. If they want to punish us or arrest us they should start with those that are bringing ARVs in Malawi. We are going to protest against the proposed law."
Public hospitals are grappling with shortages of both staff and medication, while for most Malawians private consultations are simply too expensive, with average income just 14 US dollars a month.
It's estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of Malawians consult herbal specialists or traditional healers.
There are plenty of herbal clinics all over Africa, and some argue that they are preserving an ancestral knowledge of the continent's plants and their abilities to heal.
"It will be a very very great injustice for the government just to effect that law without consulting the people in question," said Ben Mwalija, a businessman in Blantyre.
But Lameck Phiri, a student, wants the healers to stop their claims of being able to cure AIDS. He said: "The government and the entire world know that there is no cure for AIDS. The healers are just taking advantage of people with AIDS, while the number of people with AIDS in this country is increasing."
Officials declined to disclose the details of the draft law, saying that they would be made public when parliament meets.
Official estimates show AIDS kills about 10 people an hour in the impoverished southern African nation. Health officials estimate that a million Malawians are infected with HIV and about 640,000 have died of AIDS-related causes since 1985.
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