Thousands of AIDS and HIV patients in Ethiopia are risking their lives in favor of a controversial cure offered by an Orthodox church, Sky News reports.
Patients are renouncing their life-sustaining antiretroviral treatments in order to be doused with holy water said to cure them of the virus at the Church of St. Mary, on Mount Entoto, high above Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.
"People who come here just after they discover they are HIV positive, before their bodies are damaged, are easier to cure," said the church's priest, Father Geberemedhen. He claims more than 1,000 people have been cured in the last two years.
The church requires those seeking the holy water cure to stop their antiretroviral treatments — which prevent the virus from taking hold — before stripping down to be doused in groups with the freezing water. They then get dressed and pray.
But one of Ethiopia's leading doctor's denounced a practice that would require a patient to forego their medications.
"This is something deep rooted in our culture, but patients should not discontinue medication while receiving holy water," Dr. Amone Wodoson said. "There is no adverse interaction between the two. It's absolutely wrong. It's really devastating. If a patient discontinues his medication abruptly the disease will progress faster and the patient will die sooner."