KC Dennis Chibuye from the Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC) on why he went undercover to investigate a pastor claiming to be able to heal people of HIV.
A pastor in Lusaka has claimed to have healed an 18-year-old boy and his sister of HIV.
The claims came to light when Mr. Yamba, the father to the two children, reported the matter to TALC Country Coordinator Felix Mwanza.
Mr Yamba said that Pastor Kabwe of Power Harvest Church, Chazanga area had stopped his two children from taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) after they were prayed for, claiming they had been healed by faith.
He said the situation was sad because the health of the 18-year-old boy had since deteriorated.
“The boy has severe diarrhoea and skin rash is all over his body. I need help,” pleaded said Mr. Yamba.
The development prompted Mr. Mwanza to write a letter of introduction of the boy to the Matero Reference ART Clinic urging them to re-start the boy on ARVs, after necessary clinical tests were done. The doctor at the clinic agreed and the boy was put on Atripla, an ARV combination of Tenofovir, Emtricitabine and Efavizenz.
Just three days after re-starting ARVs, the rash began to heal and the diarrhoea had stopped.
The boy is now properly adhering to treatment. But despite her older brother’s encouragement, the younger sister is still in denial and believes that the prayers from Pastor Kabwe have healed her from HIV.
When I arrived at the house of Pastor Kabwe where the purported healing session took place, I found about 30 women seated outside the Pastor’s house and others inside waiting to be prayed for, the group included a few men.
I told the usher, who was seated at the entrance to the door, that I urgently wanted to see the Pastor so that he could pray for me. The usher gave me a small piece of paper on which I was asked to write my problem. I wrote that I had HIV and was in need of a healing prayer.
The usher then gave me a personal testimony of his wife; of how she was ‘healed’ from HIV at the time she was pregnant 10-years-ago after being prayed for by a Pastor.
“My wife had HIV 10-years-ago, she is healed now, she does not have HIV, we did HIV tests three times to be convinced that, she was healed from HIV. This HIV is a demon, the prayer worked,” narrated the usher, who was later identified as Brother Ngolofwani.
I waited for 1 hour 30 minutes before my turn to be prayed for arrived. As I waited I listened patiently to different problems that people presented to the Pastor with the hope of being prayed for. Problems ranged from spiritual deliverance, different diseases, health conditions and illnesses to interpreting dreams.
When it was my turn to be prayed for Pastor Kabwe got the slip of paper where I had written my problem. He said HIV can be cured through prayer and many people have been healed through faith.
“I could have shown you videos and tapes of people that have been healed from HIV after being prayed for. Anything is possible with the God if you believe,” Pastor Kabwe shouted.
He said at one time he prayed for a person living with HIV who was on ARV treatment who could not eat or walk.
“As I’m speaking now the person is now perfect –HIV free.” The person has since gone to the village and doing farming, he told me.
He called Brother Ngolofwani the usher, who gave a personal testimony of how his wife was healed from HIV 10-years-ago.
Kneeling before Pastor Kabwe Brother Ngolofwani said in full view of the people inside the house that his wife’s CD4 count was very high at the time she was diagnosed HIV positive. The doctors said that they could not put her on ARVs because of the high CD 4 count.
According to Brother Ngolofwani the high CD 4 count of his wife was a sign that she was healed from HIV. At one point, he declared that Satan is a liar and that HIV is a demon, hence the reason people should be referred for healing prayers.
He said when his wife was prayed for several HIV tests have been done by different doctors from Chawama Clinic and University Teaching Hospital.
“All these tests have shown that my wife is now HIV negative-HIV free,” Brother Ngolofwani claimed.
It was also disheartening to find out that Pastor Kabwe, upon listening to Brother Ngolofwani’s testimony, who I expected to be knowledgeable about HIV, did not know how HIV testing is done and what ARVs are.
According to him, the person he claimed to have prayed for did three HIV tests and what the doctors used to check the test results was a computer. He said the doctors tested HIV in computer 1, 2 and 3 and all the test results were HIV negative.
I was then advised to come the following day so that my sins could be prayed for and I could seek forgiveness from God.
Church mother bodies have condemned pastors who are stopping people from taking ARVs after being prayed for and have called the act tantamount to murder.
Furthermore, the Joseph Katema, the Minister of Community Development Mother and Child Health, has called on the church mother bodies to reprimand pastors who are stopping people from taking ARVs on the pretext of faith healing.
What will it take pastors such as Pastor Kabwe to stop?
My investigation took place on 1 May 2012.