From: Reuters
Published February 26, 2008 09:38 AM

Malawi drafts law against "healers" of AIDS

LILONGWE (Reuters) - 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 for prayer, a government official said on Tuesday.

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 worldwide.

"The draft law is due to be presented on March 4 to parliament and when it passes into law, all those traditional healers claiming to cure AIDS and religious leaders stopping people from taking ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS) will be dealt with," said Mary Shawa, Principal Secretary for Nutrition and HIV/AIDS in the president's office.

"These are desperate times and we need stern action to deal with these people misleading people," she said.

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Shawa declined to disclose the details of the draft law, saying that they would be made public when parliament meets.

Last week the Malawi Council of Churches said five AIDS patients on anti-retroviral treatment died after their church pastor advised them to stop take the medication because they had been healed by prayer.

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.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; editing by Andrew Roche)

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