10/18/2011 11:18 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

3 HIV Positive People Dead In UK After Churches Tell Them To Stop Taking Antiretroviral Drugs

At least three people living with HIV in the UK have died after being told by their churches to stop taking their antiretroviral medications reports the BBC.

The women believed "God would heal them" after receiving advice from their Evangelical Christian pastors and then discontinued the use of drugs prescribed to fight their HIV infections.

"I know of a friend who had been to a pastor. She told her to stop taking her medication - that God is a healer and has healed her," Jane Iwu, 48, from Newham, east London, who is herself living with HIV, told the BBC.

"This lady believed it. She stopped taking her medication. She passed away."

Another woman in east London is came forward with a similar story of a friend who passed away and Prof Jane Anderson, director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV, in Hackney, said she was involved in another case.

"We see patients quite often who will come having expressed the belief that if they pray frequently enough, their HIV will somehow be cured," Anderson said.

African Health Policy Network (AHPN), an HIV outreach organization, believes the number of London churches giving HIV positive parishioners dangerous information about being cured is growing.

"This is happening through a number of churches. We're hearing about more cases of this," AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

One church AHPN specifically singled out as possibly being involved is the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), which has UK headquarters in Southwark, south London.

The church is led by Pastor T B Joshua, who is worth $10 - $15 million according to a recent Forbes report on the richest clergymen in Nigeria, and its website claims success in curing churchgoers of HIV by prayer (see video below), as well as a laundry list of other ailments including everything from bedwetting to miscarriages.

When BBC London asked SCOAN about their claims to cure HIV, they responded:
"We are not the healer. God is the healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure… We don't ask people to stop taking medication… Doctors treat; God heals."

The BBC also notes that a House of Lords committee report on HIV awareness asserted, "It is essential that faith leaders engage with HIV as an issue and provide effective and truthful support and communication around the subject."

HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust has urged people to continue taking medication prescribed by their doctors.

Pink News adds that Ben Tunstall, the head of health improvement for Terrence Higgins Trust, the leading and largest HIV and sexual health charity in the UK, commented:

“It’s incredibly worrying to hear that individuals have been giving out advice about HIV treatments which is putting lives at risk. We work closely with churches across the UK, raising awareness of HIV and encouraging people to get tested and start treatment at the earliest possible stage, and we urge anyone living with HIV to continue the treatments prescribed by their health professionals."

A selection of videos from SCOAN claiming to show people being healed of various afflictions including HIV/AIDS:

SCOAN Videos