African Traditions at Risk in AIDS Fight that Pits Healers vs. Drugs
August 21, 2006
South African researcher Kensese Mossanda, speaking at the 16th International AIDS Conference, said that although it is difficult to blend ancient holistic treatments and modern medicine, "it is better if we work together." Mossanda cited a recent survey touted by Prometra, an international group devoted to the preservation and restoration of ancient health traditions, that found HIV patients were more than 91 percent compliant in taking antiretrovirals when African healers were involved.
Activists said traditional healers struggle to keep holistic ways alive in the face of competition from western medicines used to fight HIV/AIDS. Sometimes healers used their remedies as an alternative to modern medicines; sometimes they use the two together.
"We know that many western medicines come from plants, so why shouldn't we believe that there is a cure or treatment for HIV/AIDS in our traditional [African] ways?" asked Erick Gbodossum, Prometra's president.
Skeptics argue that there is no proof traditional healers are effective beyond building community support; evaluating the remedies is difficult; and many of the treatments are "client-specific" and of little interest to pharmaceutical firms and western doctors. In addition, passing on the knowledge of tribal witch doctors and voodoo practitioners from generation to generation is difficult.
Devan Nambiar of the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange said in the 1980s when HIV/AIDS drugs were ineffective or unavailable, people "tried everything out of desperation and found what works and what doesn't." Nambiar warned some homeopathic medicines may do more harm than good, and he advised consulting a physician.
Agence France Presse
08.17.2006; Michel Comte
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.