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Traditional healers are included in the response to AIDS

African traditional medicine often represents the main and sometimes the only available treatment option for many people living with HIV in Africa South of the Sahara.

The first attempts to integrate biomedical and traditional medicine to assist people living with HIV were undertaken in the early 1990-ies, when the world health organization recommended the inclusion of traditional medicine in national responses to AIDS.

“People all over the world are actively sought by the Council to the biomedical scientists found important and traditional healers in the event of any physical, emotional and spiritual problems. HIV is no exception,” said Purnima mane, Director of policy, evidence and partnerships UNAIDS. “We have an obligation to provide people with access to the best medical care that they need and for which they appeal”, she added.

The first attempts to combine the best that there is in both systems included a number of projects focused on use of useful properties of the folk medicinal herb for treatment of diseases associated with HIV. When this research was carried out to analyze the understanding of traditional healers of sexually transmitted infections, and HIV infection.Using this information, have been made joint projects for training traditional healers as educators and counsellors to disseminate information about HIV and sexually transmitted infections in their communities and among their colleagues.

One such project included healers in Inanda in the Valley of a thousand hills in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In 2000, the community leaders requested assistance to strengthen the measures they are implementing in response to the AIDS epidemic. They identified that the local healers can play an important role. In response to their request, sociologists, and doctors began working in partnership with local traditional healers in the framework of HIV prevention projects.

The group, which included about 16-20 healers, on a monthly basis participated in a one-day training seminars where they receive information about HIV transmission, prevention, treatment and care. The debate included discussion of traditional sexual practices and sexual practices with regard to cultural aspects, which can be aimed at prevention of HIV transmission and safer sexual practices, including condom use. In addition to other traditional medicines used by healers, the participants discussed the use of medicinal herbs such as Sutherlandia frutescens . also known as “cancer Bush”; it is produced in the form of tablets that increase appetite and immunity.

Invited speakers talked about the use of medicinal plants and the healers who were invited to participate in a training course in a nursery for cultivation of medicinal plants, have since established a garden of medicinal plants.

An important issue in the discussions was the harmonization of the needs of the patient in context in the family and community. Traditionally, the process of consultations healers use a holistic approach to problem solving and treatment; while the patient remains at the centre of attention, great importance is given to the socio-cultural environment where very important role is played by the network of support and interaction with family.

>”We need to find new ways to assist and support the special contributions that can be made by healers in the response to AIDS,” said Mr Andy Seale, head of partnership with civil society UNAIDS.

Through the organization of regular meetings, the healers have established an informal support network and rely on each other, if you need advices and tools. Increasingly used new ways to develop a network for referrals to the formal health sector and traditional healers.

Information about the work of healers in Inanda become even more widespread and increasing numbers of people are turning about HIV testing, counselling and support through the healers. In the Valley of a thousand hills there is hope and commitment to make a significant contribution.

In the framework of the Best practice collection, UNAIDS published practical guidelines to assist health authorities with the aim of establishing a productive relationship between traditional healers and modern experts in the field of Biomedicine and strengthen the response to AIDS.

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