While driving home from work a few days ago, I decided to tune into a popular local radio station. The talk show that I became unwillingly subjected to in the 30 minutes that followed prompted me to come up with this piece in an effort to find out your views on the matter.
This public broadcaster had decided to give time to one religous leader (Prophet) who in turn decided to take the time to “inform” the public that he can cure any disease using a prayer and “annointed” concoctions. He had actually brought pre- recorded testimonies of people he had cured of diseases that we (the formal health care system) have been battling with for years. These anonymous people had been cured of diabetes, hypertension and even HIV, and they “no longer required their medication”.
In recent years we have seen an increase in patients who default medication following the advice of such “men of the cloth”, and consistently they always return to the hospital in worse conditions, in some cases, beyond help. This increase has been parallel with the mushrooming of a breed of Prophets that seems to be in a competition to see who can perform the most outrageous miracle, unfortunately some of their shenanigans have been performed at the expense of gullible followers, made vulnerable by poverty, ill health and other reasons beyond my comprehension.
Pharmaceutical companies take years to develop drugs, going through a careful process of trials that is independently verified. In Zimbabwe however, one can claim divine powers, package cooking oil or river water and sell it as a cure for any disease they dream of. What happened to regulations, it is only fair that anyone claiming to have a product with the same properties go through the same process of proving it’s effectiveness and safety.Even more infuriating is the fact that they are given a platform to sell their ideas to a wider audience.
National broadcasters, or any broadcaster for that matter, should have a corporate responsibility of giving their listeners information that has been verified to be true. Imagine our grandparents in the rural areas whose only source of information is the radio, they take everything that they hear as fact. Sometimes you even hear them in their discussions quoting what they heard on the radio, they are so convinced the little black box can not be fallible. Now imagine that little black box telling them that they are now cured of their diabetes or hypertension because they have recited the Prophet’s so called healing prayer.
International broadcasters (BBC, CNN etc) would never give space to a madman claiming to cure AIDS without proof to back the claim. They worry about their reputation (which they built by doing the right things) and their corporate responsibility. Whoever regulates broadcasters closer to home is sleeping on their job, we should start holding ourselves to high standards. It is one thing to claim to have seen heaven or to claim that your farm produce is “anointed” and is worth 10 times the market value, but there is should be a line that should not be crossed. Someone should draw that line, soon.
The unforgiving nature of HIV
You may be asking yourself why you should be concerned or how all this affects you. Well, it does. HIV is a virus that is notorious for changing its shape and form (mutating), a survival trick that has enabled it to thrive for as long as it has. When someone is taking their medication correctly, the virus is suppressed and cannot mutate. Once they stop taking their medication, the virus mutates to a form that is resistant to the drugs they were taking and multiplies. When they eventually realize that anointed oil is not an ARV (which they will) , their original medication would no longer be effective. Now they will need 2nd or 3rd line drugs that are expensive, even for a middle class Zimbabwean.
If that was the only consequence, some might be tempted to say it serves them right. But it is not. Whoever is unfortunate enough to get infected with the HIV from this person also inherits the resistance and the same medication would not work for them. They too would need more expensive medication. Since HIV spreads by the snowball effect, you can already imagine the potential consequences that can result. All because we are failing to regulate our Prophets and our broadcasters.
Religion should not blind us to facts, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Almost a 100 years ago Karl Marx rightly said religion was the opiate of the masses, he probably never imagined that in a century, it would have actual medicinal properties. Malcom X, many years later said, “the media is the most powerful entity on earh. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent. Because they control the minds of the masses”. Now imagine a mind being controlled by both at the same time.
I rest my case.
drtendai writes in his own capacity and the opinions expressed are his own.