Pentecostal pastors are reportedly telling HIV positive members of the church to stop using their medication and look to God to heal them instead, doctors are warning.
Medical staff are concerned that some pastors are advising younger church members not to take anti-retroviral drugs in order to be healed by their faith, according to the BBC.
The Children's HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors and health workers who treated babies and children across the UK.
Of the 10 doctors who said they had encountered patients considering not using medication to treat their HIV, 29 of their patients reported feeling under pressure to stop taking medication from their church. 11 did stop taking their medication.
One sixteen-year-old member of a Pentecostal church told the BBC he was advised by a pastor to replace his medication with a plastic bottle containing water, which would heal him
His condition quickly deteriorated after he stopped taking his medication, and he has since begun treatment again.
Healing is an integral belief in Pentecostalism, which places an emphasis on a direct personal experience with God through prayer and worship.
Dr Toni Tan, a consultant paediatrician, told the BBC that some Pentecostal pastors were endangering the lives of followers who were sick.
“It's my view that it's very wrong for faith leaders to actively encourage their congregations to stop taking their medication... it will lead to their deaths.”
However, Pentecostal pastor Stevo Atanasio said that his congregation at the East London Christian Church had been cured of blindness, deafness and even terminal illnesses.
But he denied that the church would tell sick followers not to take their medication. “We don't say to people 'don't take your medication don't go to the doctor'. I mean we never say that,”
“But we believe that the first healing comes from inside, it's a spiritual healing. Some people are hurt, they have broken hearts. If you are healed from inside, then you are healed from outside as well.”
Pentecostalism believes in the power of miracles and spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues and divine healing.