The SA Council of Churches has slammed all faith-healing practices in which people are supposedly miraculously cured of life-threatening illnesses, as irresponsible and extremely dangerous.

This comes after the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) alleged that two people died after attending a healing session at the Christ Embassy church in Johannesburg, where they were supposedly "cured" of HIV and extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB).

The two allegedly attended the faith-healing sessions at different times and were apparently told to stop using their antiretroviral (ARV) treatment because God had healed them.

Their doctor, Graeme Meintjes, said: "The patients were on treatment before they attended the Christ Embassy healing session and were doing extremely well."

Meintjes said that when he saw one of his patients a year later, she hadn't taken her medication and had advanced Aids.

SA Council of Churches secretary general Eddie Makue said it was "completely and utterly irresponsible" for churches to claim to have faith-healed patients.

He said in order to be cured from any illness, people needed to undergo a medical process.

"We believe that ministers are endowed with gifts and knowledge, but it should be used responsibly," said Makue.

"Doctors and medical professionals are endowed with gifts to prescribe medication to cure people, not ministers.

"People cannot claim to have healed people and that it is no longer necessary for them to take their medication. It is extremely dangerous.

"If people want to be leaders, they have to understand theology." TAC treasurer, Nathan Geffen, said religious organisations played a critical role in the fight against HIV and Aids and TB, but this was not the case with Christ Embassy.

Geffen said that by claiming to heal life-threatening conditions, the church led people to believe they no longer needed to take their tablets or seek appropriate

medical care.

National Health Department spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, said: "Our position remains very clear. People who are sick must consult their doctor or nurse and take their medication as instructed.

"Where people decide to go for faith healing or any other such healing there's not much that anyone can do. We, however, encourage patients to stick with what their doctors or nurses tell and give them."

Geffen said that the TAC had contacted the church, but no resolution had been reached.

Christ Embassy was sent a list of questions on Monday. The church's director in Cape Town promised to reply by the end of the day on Tuesday. No response has yet been received.