The Spiritual Dimension in HIV/AIDS Healing
The fact of HIV/AIDS is no longer in doubt in the world today. The World Health Organization (WHO), says HIV/AIDS is a reality, the world believed it as the devastating effect of the disease is felt everywhere especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. . The WHO and medical Scientists worldwide also say HIV/AIDS has no known cure. This too is believed, unfortunately, by everyone today as the gospel truth.
We are told, "every day, nearly 7,500 people are newly infected with HIV and nearly 5,500 die of AIDS" . Most of the victims are in Africa. Evangelical Christians especially in the West are right to be critical of the promiscuous lifestyle that brought about most HIV/AIDS cases, but that does not mean we should deny that they need Christ, His love, and mercy. The Church needs to love and demonstrate the love of Christ to people who do not know Christ as their Saviour. There are Christians who are caught in the web of HIV/AIDS because they refused to make Christ the Lord of their lives. While we must rebuke, we need to show them that we love and care for me them.
Although many African countries are very poor and could do little to change the situation, the few rich countries in Africa have done nothing to at least change the situation while at the same time others have either denied the existence of the problem or continue to turn a blind eye to the reality on ground. It is also noted that many countries receiving funding are diverting it to other uses including their own personal desires. Brethren, I mean outright embezzlement of funds meant to help the sick and dying. Well, let's move on...
I believe through herbal research and development, we can find a remedy for HIV and AIDS and reach many with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can change the situation in Africa. I challenge development agencies from outside Africa who have been championing the cause of Africans facing the HIV/AIDS scourge to consider engaging in ethno-botanical research with the view to finding more effective, economical and safer natural remedies.
The Church has been having difficulties getting involved in the HIV/AIDS campaign until recently. The issues and problems churches face are many regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Some of the issues and questions are:
THE QUESTION/ISSUE OF SEXUAL IMMORALITY:
The church is disturbed that morality has declined and biblical teachings are being ignored in most societies that regarded Christian. In non-Christian societies where Christian faith was well received through evangelization, modern trends have erased all gains of over two hundred years of evangelization, church planting and discipleship efforts. Sexual immorality and perversion has increased to an all unbearing proportion. Fornication, and adultery are rampant while homosexuality, lesbianism, pornography are common, openly practiced and formally accepted as an alternative lifestyle.
THE ISSUE OF DRUG:
The church is witnessing an alarmingly increasing use of hard drugs and indicriminate of use of needles and syringes
THE ISSUE OF POVERTY:
The church has always faced the problem of poverty amongst its member’s right from the beginning. In Africa, there are so many factors responsible for poverty. While colonization has had a negative effect on the economies of African countries due to the plundering of natural resources and human labour, independent African nations have continued to experience lack of economic growth and poverty due to many factors:
1. Lack of proper economic policy and planning
2. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds and resources
3. Politics of ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism, religion and even regionalism.
4. Copying of Western political, economic and social policies and standards that are incongruent to the local environment and context.
5. Economic exploitation due to corrupt and discriminatory practices of developed countries as well as the corresponding effect of indigenous entrepreneurs who act as middlemen to international organizations.
6. Prostitution which has increased in most African societies largely due to poverty and economic deprivation of both international and national businesses.
THE QUESTION/ISSUE OF ABSTINENCE AND CONDOMS:
The Church is torn between whether to obey the Bible completely or to allow unbiblical practice of promoting safe sex by permitting the use of condoms. While most evangelical and conservative churches as well as the Catholic Church have shown resistance to the teaching of sexual education, safe sex through condoms, they have continuously taught that abstinence is the only viable option available to mankind, especially adherents of Christianity. The rest of the world and liberally minded churches have opted for a safe sex through the use of condoms as a means of combating the spread of this deadly virus.
THE QUESTION/ISSUE OF APPROPRIATE MEDICATION
Also within the Faith Community, there are also disagreements about the availability of the cure and the possibility of a cure or even an effective remedy for HIV/AIDS. While the introductions of antiretroviral drugs have been accepted and are being used, the Church has questioned the use of herbal remedies largely due to the fact that most herbalists in Africa are animists. It is believed that African native doctors are mixing sorcery and divination with the practice of herbal medicine. Thus, encouraging Christians to embrace herbal medicine in such a situation is sacrilegious and sinful.
THE QUESTION/ISSUE OF CHRISTIAN PRAYERS:
There is controversy on the validity and veracity of the claims of faith healers on the nature of healing or cure for the people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Some evangelical and liberal churches have frowned at the typically minded Pentecostals who believe strongly in divine healing and the possibility of a cure for HIV/AIDS patients directly through prayer. The Pentecostals and New Generation churches are not only challenging the traditional theological foundations of the orthodox churches, but have in practice brought some teachings which are characteristically elements of the New Age Movements. These confusions are bringing the matter of Christian prayer for people living with the disease into disrepute.
THE DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL POSITION:
This writer believes that these issues of concern are valid biblically and theologically as far as the church is concerned. The standard of the church is different from the world’s standard and there should be no doctrinal compromise. The teaching of Scriptures is clear on the subject of immorality and other social vises. The position of the church is also well known by those suffering from the disease and HIV/AIDS activists and advocates.
The Church is also aware of the many facts of socio-political dimensions which have brought about the economic catastrophe which has destroyed the traditional moral fabric of most Sub-Saharan Africa. By this, I am referring to the issues of corruption, embezzlement of public funds and exploitation of natural resources by most African leaders and their accomplices in the developed nations of the world. To a very large extent, the developed countries could as well be held responsible for the economic woes of African countries because of their collaboration with national public officers to exploit, cheat on their own people.
The failure of the Church to restrain its members in government of many African nations, who are largely involved in corruption, places a moral burden on her. Thus, while, the church is right to preach, teach and demand moral compliance, she is practically wrong to teach abstinence when she has woefully failed in true discipleship.
This writer believes that the matter of healing for HIV/AIDS sufferers and eventual cure for the disease is largely spiritual. It is true that some people have testified of being healed through herbal products while others have testified of their healing after Christian prayers by men of God.
I have personally seen these two groups of people who have received healing through medical plants and after the prayers of anointed men of God. I believe that these healings are real. The Church should explore these two possibilities as a means to check mating the destructive nature of the pandemic.
However, there is another dimension to the whole story of divine healing, either directly as a result of prayer or as a result of the use of medical plants, because in both cases, God is involved.
Now that many Christian based non-profit organizations are getting involved in many aspects of the HIV/AIDS campaign, and while there are still many differences and difficulties to be overcome, there is need for the Church to take a close look and study the spiritual elements involved in the treatment, management of healing process of those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION TO THE HEALING PROCESS
In the course of my own work at the Jehovah Rapha Centre, which combines Faith healing with herbal medicine, I have seen people who come for treatment of HIV/AIDS with only with the intension to buy the herbal products available. It is like walking into a pharmacy or drugstore with a doctor’s prescription. Most of them do not bother or care for religious opinion on HIV/AIDS and what religion defines as the consequence sexual immorality.
Many organizations fighting this pandemic take very many but diverse approaches to this campaign. Some HIV/AIDS activists and advocates are often preoccupied with the problems of stigmatization, discrimination of those dying as a result of the disease. But most are no more ready to bring in morality into the campaign.
However, the Church is approaching the struggle with dual purposes. While the crucial matter is care for the people already suffering from the disease, the Church is also seeking to halt the spread. The most serious contention and point of disagreement among those who are showing concern is how to halt or minimize the rate of infection. The Church preaches and teaches total abstinence while other campaigners are teaching safe sex through the use of condoms.
As long as the sexual appetite of people is not curbed, without safe sex methods, infection rates are bound to rise. If religion is able to curb sexual immorality in the society, the infection rate will fall. In the absence of the two actors, the worst should be expected. Therefore, it is my opinion that both groups are allowed and encouraged to preach their messages to reduce the infection rate.
It is true that the society and those in the Faith community have been very critical and discriminatory against those suffering from the disease. From religious or Faith perspective, there is need for a change of attitude of condemnation and discrimination towards people suffering from this disease.
A very close observation of those seeking treatment coming to me have shown another aspect of the problem. The physical and mental attitude of the HIV/ and AIDS patients must also be included in any forum discussing the issue of treatment and management of the disease. Most of the people living with HIV/AIDS that I have met and treated with herbal remedies have shown no pity for others. They are very worried about their own condition and have no shown grief over those they may have infected. They are mostly thinking of a cure, and the fact of ever having children of their own. For example, most of the male patients I have come in contact with did not want to change from their promiscuous life style. They just want to get their healing and continue to have sexual intercourse with their partners. This is what I feel is disgusting about the problem and this is one reason that the Church is preaching against fornication or adultery. Most of the female patients are equally worried about how to get a husband and or contemplating on the possibility of having children.
One female patient was diagnosed with HIV+. She came to see me from the hospital to get an herbal remedy. After a counseling session, she asked three questions: Am I going to be cured? Am I going to have children? How can I get my husband to admit that he infected me, and convince him to go on treatment? I listened passionately to these questions, but assured her that the herbal remedy is effective and safe. I also told her that God is the healer, but I believe the herbal remedy I am giving is capable of curing the disease. On the issues of having children and the possibility of her husband admitting responsibility and taking steps to treat himself, his second wife who is probably infected, I have no control and much help to offer. Should I advice her to divorce her husband since he refuses to admit suffering from HIV/AIDS? Should I stop treatment because she might go back to the husband and have sexual intercourse with him? What about the second wife who is not even aware of her status?
About five years ago, an AIDS patient came to me for herbal remedy; he was referred to see me by an orthodox medical practitioner in my area. I counseled him and told him to refrain from sexual intercourse while on treatment. He got annoyed with me and told me that I should not have even contemplated that idea and its possibility. I stood my ground as I told him continue treatment which must involve both partners, and that if he was not married, should abstain from sex so as not to infect others. He collected the herbal remedy, and while his condition improved, he disappeared without completing his treatment.
I was surprised to say the least, which this man who did not want to die wants others to die. Three points which I gathered from most men coming for treatment are:
1. Not willing to abstain from sexual intercourse despite their health condition.
2. Not willing to disclose their status to their sexual partners
3. Continuously hiding their very status from their spouses
PROBLEM ISSUES OF MORALITY
As a Christian, and clergy, I asked myself, why should God give this man a second chance? To survive, live, have sex and infect others? What should I do in the following situations?
1. Others come for treatment, and would want their status kept from their spouses. Why?
2. Those who came without money to pay for the herbal remedy may listen to my sermons on infidelity and fornication, but still you can still feel the type of sadness in them for telling them to abstain from sex. How sincere are these who listen to sermons to collect free treatment?
3. Many will come into the clinic to collect herbal products for their love ones. They will not want to show the result of the HIV/AIDS test done and do not want to disclose the names of the infected. What do I do? Refuse treatment?
4. Another group is of the ones who come for antidote. They call it “protection” remedy. With this (if available), they could indulge in sexual intercourse without being infected. Should I give it if it is available? Is this not another condom controversy?
As a Christian, I pray for all the sick that come to me, and I preach against all sins including sexual sin. I believe that the spiritual state of the infected has a lot to do with the healing process. However, these all pose spiritual and more moral questions:
1. How can a person who is supposedly living with a terminal disease not show love to others by not spreading the infection?
2. Why should a husband (or wife) be not willing to disclose his status to his/her spouse?
3. Why would and should God heal such a person who is deliberately infecting others, lying, deceiving, and being reckless?
I am just asking questions. I am neither condemning nor judging, but that is the fact on ground. You can judge yourself.
Death is unavoidable but God is God of love. The Grace of God is an unmerited favour through Jesus Christ. We all deserve to die without Christ. But there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. It is not the will of God for any to perish. Those who put their trust in Christ will only suffer the physical death but once. Those who refuse to put their faith in Christ will suffer physical and eternal death in hell fire. That is the plain scriptural truth. This, however, does not excuse the Church’s abrasive cultural insensitivity to alternative medicine in the form of herbal remedy. The incongruous nature of un-African approach to issues affecting African health problems are not only discriminatory, but are also not dignifying. The indecorous behavior of the African scientist to traditional or herbal medicine who themselves patronize traditional medicine secretly at night is not only unfortunate but hypocritical.
However, sickness and death are real and inevitable regardless of one’s spiritual state. As for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, just like any other disease, there is need for them to seek for spiritual remedy and even for forgiveness of their spouses while actively searching for medical solution. Forgiveness will enhance the healing of the sick.
The reasons why people got infected are many. Some are completely innocent, like housewives who are faithful to their husbands, and children who are born helplessly. Others are guilty of sexual sin. These are husbands and wives who are unfaithful sexual partners and those who are victims of fornication, rape, and blood transfusion. All these need God’s mercy and forgiveness. They too need human sympathy, love and understanding. They too must co-operate with God, and those out there helping them. While they need to be loved, they too must show responsibility, restraint, and realize that claiming their rights as are being advocated may not necessarily be the solution to their problems.
Those who got infected through their promiscuous life need God’s forgiveness and from those they have infected mistakenly or deliberately. Activists and advocates cannot do this for them. Husbands who infected their wives and children need to seek their forgiveness. I have seen many women who suffer in caring of their sick husbands, while the husbands and their own family members knowingly keep wives away from the cause of the sickness. In some cases in Nigeria, the women are accused for being responsible for their husbands’ sickness even when it is known to be an infectious disease. Forgiveness from God and those suffering with the HIV/AIDS patients is a critical part of healing.
I love the Lord and his people, saved or unsaved. My responsibility is to present God’s love in Christ to them and seek to demonstrate it physically as much as I humanly can. But, I cannot help those refuse to demonstrate love for their spouses and are franticly seeking to live and destroy other lives. Through the God-given herbal remedy, God has demonstrated His love and power of forgiveness. The HIV/AIDS patients need Christ and such prayer to receive Christ means complete repentance. About turn. While being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit through conviction, it is necessary to emphasis that making the Christ the Lord of one’s life includes: No fornication. No adultery, No condoms for sex outside marriage. No Lying and No deception which I have personally witnessed over the past seven years of working with the people living with HIV and AIDS.
The State has a responsibility to those suffering from the disease and the family members of the patients who have passed on. The irresponsible way our governments are behaving is very regretful. While the national budget for the HIV/AIDS pandemic is meager, the funds coming from the international agencies are either embezzled or misused. The developed countries with their selfish and capitalistic economic systems are encouraging investment in their own economies. As a result African leaders who amass wealth illegally siphon public funds with which they invest overseas. The inhumane, ethnocentric, and racially discriminatory attitude of some business people of Asian and Middle Eastern origin to Africans have contributed to the economic backwardness of Africa. Their corrupt and sharp practices have plundered the resources and wealth of Africans. Those responsible for these wicked acts must seek forgiveness. They too have a case to answer before man and God.
As a Church, we condemn in totality, all forms of discrimination, corruption, and senseless and reckless squandering of the natural gift of resources and neglect of the poor and those suffering from the HIV and AIDS.
This healing process, whether it is healing through orthodox treatment, herbal medicine or directly through prayers of the people of God must follow biblical standard. I do not judge anyone as the Bible is the only standard for judgment
The Bible says, “Therefore also we have as our ambition…to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-11
Romans 14:12 so then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
1 Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth;
This admonition includes those who have infected others; those who deny love to the sick; those who were responsible for forcing young girls into prostitution. In the same way, those who stole what was given to the sick and dying and those who embezzle what was given to the widows and orphans shall all be called on the last day to account for our acts while in this body.