Desperate HIV Patients Donate to Church So That the Pastor Will Destroy Their Medication — and Pray For Them Instead

Via the Washington Post comes this tale of callousness and perfidy.

NAIROBI, Kenya — At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.

The “cure” is not free, and some people say they shell out their life savings to receive a miracle blessing and quit taking the drugs.

“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”

Yeah. “We don’t ask for money. We just ask for money.” I’m sure you understand.

In an extra-cruel twist, the dupes of this deadly scam are recruited to bring more sick customers into the church.

Here’s how it works: When confronted with falsified test results from a clinic that’s in cahoots with the faith healers, the elated patients are eager to spread the good news, encouraging other HIV sufferers to also make donations in exchange for a pastor’s prayers. After a few days or weeks, the symptoms of the first group inevitably worsen, but by then a fresh wavelet of the newly “cured” has taken over the PR work, perpetuating the cycle.

In Kenya, nationwide, at least 2,000 patients are known to have fallen for the ruse.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • JH

    Christian love at its best!

  • GusSnarp

    The pastors should show their faith by getting an injection of blood from the “healed” individual.

  • icecreamassassin

    Dear people who believe that prayers can help cure a disease -

    Stop that sh*t. Now. You’re enablers for this kind of horrific bulls**t. You really are. You are normalizing bulls**t that RESULTS IN PEOPLE SUFFERING AND BEING F**KING DEAD.

    Until we as a society can agree that imploring a super-being to cure disease is F**KING NONSENSE, I see no way to stop this kind of thing from happening. Do you know how many people die annually from people praying to Elvis to cure cancer? ZERO – because everyone pretty much agrees that such a thing is BULLS**T, no one does it, and I’d be hard pressed to find a way to convince someone to even TRY.

    But praying to god to cure a disease? WAY EASY to convince someone to do. WAY. TOO. F**KING. EASY. Because you idiots give credence to the idea that someone can, in fact, PRAY AWAY DISEASE.

  • 3lemenope

    Normally I don’t go in for cruel retribution, but this has an elegance to it that is undeniable. There is no easier way to show that these preachers don’t actually believe their own bullshit. My only reticence is in that there is a somewhat larger-than-zero chance that some of them actually do believe it, are woefully misinformed and or terminally suspicious of Western medicine due to a legacy of being on the ass end of colonization and empire.

    ETA: And then I remember that they are charging desperate people their life savings. So fuck ‘em.

  • Richard Thomas

    I remind you of the Magic Johnson episode of South Park. The pastors are the ones with money and therefore the healthcare… and some people ARE just greedy enough to infect themselves in exchange for the collective life savings of all their parishioners. Besides, it only makes a difference the first time.

    EDIT: Also, since their parishioners are already GIVING them their antiretrovirals, they don’t even have to worry about that!

  • ansuz

    …and how many of those people who think they are healed relax their do-not-spread-HIV precautions, I wonder.

  • aaa

    I am actually surprised the pastors don’t steal the medications then sell them on the black market.

  • Hypersapien

    “When confronted with falsified test results from a clinic that’s in
    cahoots with the faith healers, the elated patients are eager to spread
    the good news”

    This evil monster doesn’t even believe himself that he’s curing these people. If he were just as delusional as they were, it would be a horrible, sad situation. But this makes him guilty of straight-up murder.

  • ansuz

    With a bit of sleight of hand that would be easy to do.

  • Mick

    Don’t worry. When the leaders of the Pentecostal Churches hear about what is happening they will stop it quick smart. They’re Christians after all. They always do the right thing

  • Rain

    “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”

    Gotta love the delightfully wonderfully ambiguous double-talk of the huckster. You have to read it three times to figure out what the hell they are talking about. And then you still don’t know what the hell.

  • Dale

    Quoting from the Washington Post article:

    In Uganda, Gabriel Amori, coordinator of that country’s INERELA+ chapter, said Pentecostal church pastors often tell people that a lack of faith is the reason the prayer healing isn’t working.

    This has the classic hallmark of a good scam: it is impossible to be proven wrong. When the prayer healing fails, it is the fault of the victim for not doing it right. Plus, it adds a dose of shame, so the victim is less likely to complain to others.

  • newavocation

    Or they could just give them their bank account number and get millions

  • Rob P

    “seed money”
    They have learned from American televangelists.

  • David

    and to prove that these people are cured the pastor will accept a blood transfusion along with the cash.

  • Lando

    Eat your heart out, snake handlers.

  • Gehennah

    The same thing was told to the Christian Scientists who lost their second child. It’s because they didn’t have enough faith in their household, even though they had enough faith to allow not 1, but 2 of their children die from easily treatable diseases.

  • LesterBallard

    Fucking scumbag motherfuckers.

  • Stev84

    Pentecostals. Not really surprised. To say that it’s an insane church would be an understatement.

  • Adrian M. Kleinbergen


  • Captain Cassidy

    ‘Fraid so. I was Pentecostal for a long time. Their deep distrust of modern medicine and their reliance on faith healing is something that alarmed me even as a member. I knew a woman with serious depression who refused to get real therapy because she was so sure her god would heal her. And he did, regularly. She’d come out of revivals convinced that she was healed of her depression–and indeed she’d seem to be healed for a week or so until the euphoria wore off. Too bad revivals just came along once or twice a year… It was so maddeningly irresponsible of our church not to encourage her to get real help. There were others–a wheelchair-bound man who clearly wasn’t getting the medical help he needed, people who were always praying to get over addictions, lots of others, but she was one of my dearest friends, so it was a lot more immediate of a problem to me. Nothing I said could convince her to seek real help.

  • Captain Cassidy

    It’s worth noting that snake handlers tend to ignore the words immediately preceding the bit about handling snakes–that Christians will be able to drink poison and it not affect them. You don’t tend to see hucksters drinking antifreeze, though.

  • Neko

    So sad.

  • ansuz

    “Christians will be able to drink poison and it not affect them.”

    The only True Christian™?

  • Finn Nicolas

    Many of them do actually do this. But they don’t drink actual poison, they drink venom (or it might be something else) that won’t hurt you unless it is injected into your bloodstream. Seeing as most of these people don’t understand the difference between the two, they think that they are drinking poison without getting hurt. I could be wrong, but that is what I’ve heard.

  • Captain Cassidy

    Well, he’d spent years building up resistance to iocaine powder. <3 <3 <3 Westley

  • Captain Cassidy

    News to me. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Rogue Medic

    How do we know that they do not switch the medication with something else to burn?

    They may have hench-acolytes selling the drugs for them.


  • Rogue Medic

    Fire walkers are the same.

    Tony Robbins had a mass fire walking where someone miscalculated the length of the walk and a bunch of people were burned.

    Fire walking is safe – as long as the right material is used and the time in contact with the coals is short enough.

    Perhaps this was like drinking poisonous venom with an ulcer. Oopsy.


  • Astreja

    Beyond evil — Without the retrovirals suppressing HIV in these allegedly “cured” individuals, the virus load will increase and the risk of infecting others will rise accordingly.

  • CSFiles

    Just like welfare fraud in the USA, a small percentage of a small percentage. Look past your displeasure with The Church and tackle the larger and more difficult issue.

  • CSFiles

    Several African governments have declared that HIV is NOT THE CAUSE of AIDS and condom use by African men is the big issue.

  • chicago dyke, TOWAN

    “The Church?” and what denomination would that be? which is better than all the others, which you so obviously know?

    …oh, and your racist dog whistle didn’t go unnoticed, just ignored as sophomoric racist idiocy common in the FOX-viewing population.

  • meekinheritance

    Name two, please. I found only one, and he was quickly soon from office. You’re right about [lack of] condom use being a big issue.