Nigeria: A recent article looking at folk cures and protections against HIV among the prostitutes of Lagos included an example of the way predatory churches exploit the pandemic—by lying, of course:
Over the din of the giant generator and commercial motorbikes belching smoke into the hamathan haze, she managed to say:Please I want you to see this.
From her handbag she pulled out a crumpled newspaper publication. It was actually a page out of a newsletter published by a Pentecostal church in Lagos. The story was a good story, about a 26-year-old woman who had received miracle cure for AIDS. The woman in the photograph wore a happy smile. Her name was given as Christina Okpe. The story was a testimony of the same Christina detailing how she had lived with full-blown AIDS and how a bus preacher directed her to a healing camp where she received miracle.
Christina went on to say in the article that she had forsaken her sinful past and now lived under a glorious authority as a child of God protected from earthly afflictions. The faith healer was quoted as saying that Christina's case was yet another proof thatfor all those who believe in Him, they shall be healed of every sickness including blood diseases...
Getting a little impatient, the reporter looked up with a frown. Testimonies of faith healings were common in religious bulletins and newsletters. Until the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) put a stop to it, television screens were riddled with episode after episode of religious miracles. Many of the miracle receivers were believed to be phonies recruited to advertise the purported powers of the spiritual leader. It was possible Christina was just another but Esse cut short the puzzle by saying that the woman in the picture was dead. According to her, Christina died about four months after the testimony, of complications arising from AIDS.
But in a world where they have little power, and men insist on not using condoms, the women rely on other superstitions too:
Saturday Sun, discovered that among the male population of this community, it is common to possess a talisman called Iba-esu, said to protect the man from HIV/AIDS. The efficacy is only based on the belief that if the man's sex partner were HIV positive, he would receive an 'electric shock' the moment he touches any part of her body. Interestingly, the womenfolk have their own talisman, Iyo-esu, woven into fashionable waistbands. If the woman’s sex partner has HIV/AIDS or STDs like gonorrhea or syphilis, the Iyo-esu is believed to work by making the penis go limp.
Real or myth, the Iyo-esu is known to have caused serious problems for women who use them. Men with erectile dysfunction are known to have taken their frustrations out on the woman and if she is a prostitute, she is accused of using a corrupt Iyo-esu that allows her to accept money from clients but never gets to render any service.
Esse narrated that she and her colleagues tended to get the most problem from men who use Iba-esu.They are the ones who will never use the condom, no matter what you tell them.
Lime, lies and HIV/AIDS—The Saturday Sun, 23rd December 2006.