The Strange Phenomenon of Pentecostals Who Decline HIV Treatment

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Bill came home from the grocery store to find his front hallway bathed in sunlight, the air smelling of roses. He looked around, plastic bags in hand. When a man’s voice spoke to him, he knew with perfect certainty that it was the voice of God. God reassured Bill that he would be healed of the HIV he had lived with for more than 10 years. The long struggle was over, God reassured him; from now on he would be healthy.


Standing in the hall, still clutching his his grocery bags, Bill felt calm and comforted. His burden was lifted.

Two weeks later, I saw Bill as a patient at my HIV clinic. He described his vision embarrassedly at first, but grew more and more enthusiastic in the telling. “It was a wonderful feeling,” he said. In a final rush he confessed he had stopped taking his HIV medications.

“I know, I know, it sounds crazy. It is crazy,” he said. “But I think I have to follow this through.” He alluded to the biblical parable of Abraham and Isaac, to faith that transcends reason. “This is my test,” he said.

I made sure he understood the risks of his decision. I did a careful neurological examination. I assessed Bill for signs of psychosis or delusional thinking. His partner Kay was with us and confirmed that Bill had been behaving normally otherwise, at home and in the floral shop they share. Kay was horrified by Bill’s decision. Also HIV-positive, Kay had taken HIV medicines for nearly a decade, too. “How could he throw it all away?” Kay asked.

HIV medications are widely regarded as a miracle of modern medicine. They have turned the HIV epidemic on its head; while HIV was once the leading cause of death among young Americans, life expectancy among people with HIV is now nearly normal.

Written By: Tim Lahey
continue to source article at theatlantic.com

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  1. In reply to a portion of the article:

    God reassured Bill that he would be healed of the HIV he had lived with for more than 10 years. The long struggle was over, God reassured him; from now on he would be healthy.

    Substitute the word “God” with “Peter Popov” or “Ernest Angley.” Nuf said.

  2. “HIV medications are widely regarded as a miracle of modern medicine. They have turned the HIV epidemic on its head; while HIV was once the leading cause of death among young Americans, life expectancy among people with HIV is now nearly normal”.

    Science has already provided Bill with an extended life.Wonder if he considered all the work done to provide people with HIV meds and I wonder if he was suitably grateful.

    The story of Abraham and Isaac is disgusting. So Isaac did not die, but what about the story of Jephthar and his daughter.THAT story is seldom,if ever mentioned.

    Oh,what the heck,if an adult wishes to sacrifice himself on the blood-soaked altar of religion, that’s his business.If said adult wishes to sacrifice a CHILD ,that’s not to be tolerated.

  3. Another sad story of religious nonsense taking over someone’s brain. This man will eventually die, it’s just a matter of time. As John Cleese used to say in Monty Python skits: “What a waste of human life!”

  4. I would like to see what has happened to this man, why put a story like this up if there is no conclusion, Let us know what happens to this man please. Thank you. I know that the majority of people on this website will say well is it not obvious what will happen, That is fine, But I would like to see with my own eyes. thanks.

  5. A neighbour of mine got involved with a the Jehovah witness she stopped celebrating charismas,birthdays, Halloween, you name it her kids had to go along with it her husband decided against it but tolerated the life change, some years later my neighbour was badly hurt in a car accident and a blood transfusion was needed to save her life and her brother who wasn’t a member of Jehovah was a suitable and more than willing donate, the brother was on his was in to the hospital when he was approached by two young men who tried to convince him not to go through with the blood donation that it was “against gods laws to take blood” they then tried to physically stop the doctor from carrying out the transfusion the brother and the husband had to threaten the two Jehovah’s with violence in order to make them leave. My neighbour received the transfusion while in a coma but made a full recovery, no thanks to the Jehovah witness.

  6. There is a passage in the bible that states”thou shall not take blood” i dont think the person who wrote that 2000 years ago was thinking about a blood transfusion when added that bit its more than likely he meant thou shall not kill. Unfortunately the J.W take everything in the bible literally and would even be willing to sacrifice one of their own loyal members by refusing a blood donation.

  7. What I want to know is why Euthanasia, assisted suicide and even suicide are criminal offences in (I believe) all states and in the UK. Yet these pastors and their churches are completely legit!

    • In reply to #9 by AsylumWarden:

      What I want to know is why Euthanasia, assisted suicide and even suicide are criminal offences in (I believe) all states and in the UK. Yet these pastors and their churches are completely legit!

      I think there are two states where a more reasonable position is taken.

      http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/637270-how-to-die-in-oregon

      It concerns physician assisted suicide, which is legal in the states of Oregon and now Washington, because of “Death with Dignity” laws. Patients with less than six months to live are allowed to receive from their doctors prescriptions for Seconal or Nembutal (barbiturates) in quantity sufficient to cause death. The capsules are opened and emptied and the powder is mixed with water and the patient drinks the mixture down and peacefully sinks into unconsciousness and finally death. The physician is not directly involved in the process except for writing the prescription.

  8. I think this paragraph sums up the whole story:

    I asked Bill what his pastor and fellow parishioners thought about his decision to stop HIV treatment. “They totally support me,” he said. “In fact, it was their idea.” His congregation had encouraged him to stay off his HIV medications despite his doubts, to see this revelation through “to the end, whatever may come.”

  9. When I was a kid back in the late 60′s and 70s, people who claimed to hear the voice of God were mocked, not only by my Catholic family but even on TV. Times have changed; no one seems afraid to be labeled a nut job.

  10. Why would anyone presume any voice in their head is “God”? Why would the creator of the universe take time out to deliver a personal message? I guess it is vanity. No matter what sort of mush brain you are, you can still claim a personal visit from God/Jesus… The other way it can happen is if the voice occurs at time you are in an ecstatic state. You presume only God could make you feel that good.

    We need some movies where pranksters make Christians do silly things with disembodied voices put through a reverb.

    If my enemies want to kill themselves and get off my back, part of me wants to encourage them.

    • In reply to #15 by Roedy:

      Why would anyone presume any voice in their head is “God”? Why would the creator of the universe take time out to deliver a personal message?

      I think it made a lot more sense back when the whole Judeo-Christian notion of God was first invented thousands of years ago, back when “the universe” consisted of the few hundred square miles you personally knew about and some pretty lights in the night sky. Unfortunately, the notion of a personal God somehow managed to survive into the present day when we now know a lot more about the universe. Some viruses are just harder to totally eradicate than others, I suppose…

  11. “… faith that transcends reason. “This is my test,” he said.”

    This is what they all want to believe–that faith is some challenging test and makes their god happy and gets those pearly gates open. Meanwhile, it surely seems that the actual test would be giving up all worldly goods and maybe even family and serving the most downtrodden as their holy book commands them to do. We should see masses of Christians working tirelessly to help others, and they should own extremely few items. Instead, we see quite the opposite with most fearlessly disregarding the supposed instructions from their god, while they proclaim their most weighted “test” is faith. That’s rather easy-peasy if you ask me and no test or sacrifice at all.

    • In reply to #16 by sherlock12:

      “… faith that transcends reason. “This is my test,” he said.”

      This is what they all want to believe–that faith is some challenging test and makes their god happy and gets those pearly gates open.

      It is a common Xtian view that “faith” (dogma) over-rides science and reasoning. This was spelt out clearly by the self-proclaimed “infallible” Pope Pius IX.

      First Vatican Council in 1869–70. The council has a section on “Faith and Reason” – that includes the following (sections 9 and 10) on science and faith:

      It is an anti-science / pseudo-science dogma which is indoctrinited into followers at an early age.

  12. There’s an old joke about a faithful climber who hangs by a branch off the edge of a cliff. He turns away a rope and a helicopter rescue, and even declines to fly when he magically sprouts wings, each time proclaiming “God will save me!” Eventually, he falls, and accuses God at St. Peter’s Gates of abandoning him.

    “What do you want from me?” God asks. “I sent you a rope, a helicopter, and wings. You can’t help some people.”

    It always irks me when man-made, science-based solutions are credited to God working in His mysterious ways.

  13. I would love to see court actions against “Bill’s” pastor for providing faulty medical advice. These people need to be brought smack up against the consequences of such self serving and lethal mischief. If, however, they advise, stop taking the meds and die, God clearly wants that, then that would be fine by me.

  14. life expectancy among people with HIV is now nearly normal.

    This is substantially the work of one man Dr. Julio Montaner. He pioneered the idea of multi-drug cocktails and early treatment of people to stop them spreading HIV. He won some big award last week. BC has lower HIV rates than any other province, and that is because of him. He composed the cocktail I am now on.

    • I am ashamed that I am not familiar with the wonderful work of this admirable human being.Infantile movie stars, popstars and sportsmen get the lion’s share of the public’s admiration while scientists work on in obscurity, improving and lengthening our lives.Glad he received that award.Hope you are well,Roedy,take care.
      In reply to #22 by Roedy:

      life expectancy among people with HIV is now nearly normal.

      This is substantially the work of one man Dr. Julio Montaner. He pioneered the idea of multi-drug cocktails and early treatment of people to stop them spreading HIV. He won some big award last week. BC has lower HIV rates than any other p…

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