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Fake healers 'lying' to victims of deadly TB

By Zoë Mahopo | 2017-03-18 10:13:20.0

A belief in fake healers and prophets was mentioned as one of the main reasons why South Africa is struggling to cure TB.

Addressing an audience of patients, community members and officials during a dialogue in Modimolle, Limpopo, yesterday, health MEC Phophi Ramathuba said bogus prophets were creating a serious obstacle when it came to fighting the disease.

The event was held at the Modimolle MDR TB unit, a facility which is meant to treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extreme drug resistant (XDR) TB.

Some of the patients from the facility were sitting in the audience with their faces covered with protective masks.

Ramathuba said bogus prophets and healers mislead people into thinking they were healed, causing patients to abandon their treatment.

She said some of these prophets took advantage of patients who were already on treatment because their symptoms had subsided.

Ramathuba said such patients were fooled into thinking that they were healed and stopped taking medication before doctors had instructed them to do so.

She said the department was working closely with registered traditional healers who supported the work done at health facilities. She said South Africa continued to be among 30 countries in the world with a large number of victims of the disease.

Ramathuba said this was despite TB being curable, adding that the latest research reflected that there was a cure rate of 60% for multi-drug resistant TB and 20% for extreme multi-drug resistant TB because of new medications.

Provincial secretary of the Limpopo Traditional Health Practitioners, Thomas Maluleka, said such bogus healers were giving the organisation a bad name.

Maluleka said legitimate traditional healers knew that they did not have the ability to cure TB. He said they, however, worked with the department by referring their patients to clinics if they showed TB symptoms.

Maluleka said they also assisted with monitoring the progress of patients to make sure they continued taking their treatment.

"We also make sure that the herbs we give them do not interfere with the medication they are taking," he said.

One of the patients at the facility, Victor Molefinyana, who has been suffering from TB since 2012, encouraged people not to stop taking their treatment. His condition progressed to MDR and XDR.