The Eastern Regional Minster, Eric Kwakye-Darfuor, has expressed worry over the activities of some prayer camps who unduly detain HIV patients instead of allowing them to seek appropriate medical care.
He said that practice was an affront to the national efforts in the HIV and AIDS response and called on the Ghana AIDS Commission to put in place appropriate measures to curb the practice.
Mr Kwakye-Darfour said the fact that the national average of HIV prevalence was 1.8 and the Eastern Region’s prevalence was 2.6, “we are already threatened and we should not allow people to do their own things to aggravate the situation”.
The Minister was speaking at a dissemination forum on findings of visit to prayer camps and healing centers in the region organized by the Regional AIDS Committee (RAC) under the umbrella of the Technical Support Unit (TSU) of the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC).
The visit to the prayer camps was necessitated by high defaulting rates of clients on the Anti-Retroviral drugs (ART) and loss to follow-ups, alarming rate of recording of new infections and the rate at which infected persons were getting weaker.
Ms Golda Asante, the Regional AIDS Coordinator, said they visited 85 prayer camps in 18 out of the 26 districts in the region and described the situation as very bad as many people were found to be very sick and almost at the point of death.
She said at some of the prayer camps, people were sleeping on the bare floor at the mercy of the weather and others were living under poor conditions.
Ms Asante said some of the prayer camps were accommodating TB patients and were sharing the same room with others because they had been made to understand that HIV and AIDS were spiritual diseases and that only prayers and fasting could cure them.
Ms Asante said the most alarming was that “these prayer camps are congregating around areas with high prevalence in the region like the Krobo areas and feeding patients with superstition”.
She said the matter was a grave concern and called on stakeholders to join efforts together to monitor and supervise the prayer camps to ensure that people are not kept there to the detriment of their health.
Dr S.B Ofori, a consultant and HIV Prevention and Treatment Specialist, said there was no proof to show that HIV and AIDS were spiritual and that the ART was the only drug proved to be effective in the management of the disease.
He said as a medical practitioner, he has personally seen clients who were doing well on the ART and were capable of working but after defaulting the treatment they come back later in ‘wheelchairs and wheelbarrows’.
Dr Ofori called on pastors and all other religious groups to use their platforms to educate the public that HIV and AIDS are real and the only form of treatment, for now, was the ART and not by drinking concoctions and being kept at prayer camps.