The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Kwazulu Natal Council of Churches, Gugu Dlamini Foundation, Aids Foundation of South Africa and Midlands Christian Council gathered in protest last Wednesday against quacks in KZN. The ‘Life Saving March’ from King Dinizulu Park in Durban to Gugu Dlamini Park in Durban Central, was in response to the dangerous quackery of ‘Bishop’ Nala.
Hamilton Nala, self-proclaimed bishop and doctor, claims HIV and aids is curable by the power of God in him and in every branded material he sells, including t-shirts, caps, towels and ‘faith water’.
The water is packed in plastic water bottles branded with his logo and image. It is sold at his church in Umbilo for R15 for a small bottle and R30 for a big one. Nala says he has testimonies of people that have been cured of HIV through prayer and the use of his faith Water.
In a statement he released four days after the TAC march in Durban, Nala says that he doesn’t tell people to stop taking ARVs. Several people have however testified that they stopped their ARVs because they believed Nala had cured them. While Nala might not explicitly tell people to stop taking their medication, he makes them belief that HIV can be cured by prayer and the products he sells alone. Testimonies on his website claim that people tested negative for HIV after he prayed for them.
It is not clear what is meant by a negative test. The most common tests given to HIV-positive people are CD4-count tests and viral load counts. When people are stable on antiretroviral treatment they sometimes have viral load counts that are so low that normal viral load tests cannot detect the virus. These people are still HIV positive and other tests can still pick up the virus.
TAC discussed the situation with the KZN Council of Churches. The Council reiterated that “the use of ARVs is not against the application of faith”. Instead, it says “the application of faith should encourage people to adhere to treatment.” The Council acknowledged that “the application of faith leading people to default or abandon any form of medical treatment puts the patients at very high risk”.
Strengthened by the support of the Council of Churches, TAC representatives took the matter to the KZN provincial Aids Council last week. The Aids Council brings together mayors, academics, traditional leaders, civil society and general members of the public to form a unified response against HIV in the province. When hearing about Bishop Nala, it unanimously agreed to work with relevant authorities “to curb this deadly practice.”
TAC is taking counsel to explore various legal options in relation to Nala. At the same time, TAC comrades in KZN are stepping up their treatment literacy campaign going from door-to-door to educate people on HIV and ARVs.