The newly appointed health minister, Dr Christine Ondoa Dradidi, has told The Observer that prayer heals HIV/AIDS, and that she knows three people who were once positive but turned negative after prayer for deliverance.
She, however, said medical workers and the general public should be cautious about people who claim they were healed of HIV.
“I am sure and I have evidence that someone who was positive turned negative after prayers,” Ondoa told The Observer on last week, promising to ask colleagues in Arua hospital, where she once worked, to find the relevant documentation.
She spoke of her time as a doctor in West Nile when she handled cases of people who claimed to be negative after ARV treatment and prayers.
“While there [West Nile], we did thorough testing and saw all documentation of three people who were once positive. We tested them in different laboratories and the results were negative,” Ondoa told The Observer.
She had earlier told a press conference that while some people indeed turn out to be negative, others were either misdiagnosed or were not positive in the first place. In some cases, she said, a person may be negative but starts ARV treatment because they lost a partner to AIDS. Ondoa said usually, when a person is to start ARV treatment, all confirmatory tests should be done to be sure the person is indeed positive and eligible for ARVs.
She said as a scientist, she is often careful not to automatically believe a person who comes to her presenting negative results after being prayed for. Such a person’s sero status must be checked, their past medical records that show they tested positive must be scrutinized and repeat tests done in different laboratories to prove the claim, she said.
Ondoa also clarified on recent reports that there is a shortage of ARVs in the country. She said there are enough ARVS in Uganda to last at least six months. She said the problem her ministry is facing with regard to ARVs is reaching all the people that need the treatment.
Addressing a dissemination meeting by the Health Communication Partnership on July 26, Ondoa said Uganda’s first solution to bringing down the high population growth rate is to ensure that boys and girls go to school and stay in school. Girls are often married off young and start child bearing at a tender age after dropping out of school.
The minister said government should particularly promote girls’ education because the more people are informed, the more they will act responsibly.
“When mothers are educated, they make informed decisions; they are employed and empowered. If they are not educated, they depend on men,” Ondoa said.
She added that one of the reasons why maternal mortality in Uganda is high, at 430 per 100,000, according to the Population Reference Bureau’s World Women and Girls Data Sheet of 2011, is because women have too many children too soon.
“Family planning, together with education, will help space children and parents will have numbers they are able to manage, making women’s health better,” Ondoa said.