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      The effects of traditional healing on HIV and AIDS management: An ethnographic study

      1 ,
      South African Family Practice
      culture, ethnography, healing, impact, management, traditional healer

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          This article presents the effects of traditional healing on the management of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the Vhembe district, South Africa. The Vhembe district is one of the rural districts in Limpopo Province, South Africa, in which traditional healers are used as the first point of consultation for most ailments, regardless of their causes.


          This ethnographic study was based on Leininger’s theory of culture care diversity and universality. It was carried out in selected villages in the Vhembe district. Observation and interviews with 15 purposively selected key informants, who are traditional healers, were used to collect data. Interviews were tape-recorded and field notes were also taken. The data were analysed using the ethnographic content analysis method.


          The results suggest that traditional healing has both negative and positive effects on HIV and AIDS management. The positive effects are the effective treatment of some opportunistic infections, such as diarrhoea, skin lesions and childhood diseases. Negative effects, however, include incisions to let the ‘dirty blood flow out’ and inducing of vomiting and diarrhoea, which may lead to anaemia, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Some traditional healers are of the view that HIV does not exist and that people either have an ancestral calling or are bewitched. Even though their claims have not been scientifically proven, some traditional healers stated that they can heal HIV and AIDS.


          The research brings insight as to whether Vhavenda traditional healing has a favourable or unfavourable impact on HIV and AIDS management. Using Leininger’s steps for adaptation for culture care diversity and universality will help with re-Africanisation of HIV management. The researcher recommend the modification of practices with a high risk of HIV infection to reduce this risk, whilst also supporting the continuation of beneficial practices that reduce HIV mortality, such as diarrhoea management.

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          Traditional healers, faith healers and medical practitioners: the contribution of medical pluralism to bottlenecks along the cascade of care for HIV/AIDS in Eastern and Southern Africa

          Objectives There are concerns that medical pluralism may delay patients’ progression through the HIV cascade-of-care. However, the pathways of impact through which medical pluralism influence the care of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in African settings remain unclear. We sought to establish the manifestation of medical pluralism among PLHIV, and explore mechanisms through which medical pluralism contributes bottlenecks along the HIV care cascade. Methods We conducted a multicountry exploratory qualitative study in seven health and demographic surveillance sites in six eastern and southern African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We interviewed 258 PLHIV at different stages of the HIV cascade-of-care, 48 family members of deceased PLHIV and 53 HIV healthcare workers. Interviews were conducted using shared standardised topic guides, and data managed through NVIVO 8/10/11. We conducted a thematic analysis of healthcare pathways and bottlenecks related to medical pluralism. Results Medical pluralism, manifesting across traditional, faith-based and biomedical health-worlds, contributed to the care cascade bottlenecks for PLHIV through three pathways of impact. First, access to HIV treatment was delayed through the nature of health-related beliefs, knowledge and patient journeys. Second, HIV treatment was interrupted by availability of alternative options, perceived failed treatment and exploitation of PLHIV by opportunistic traders and healers. Lastly, the mixing of biomedical healthcare providers and treatment with traditional and faith-based options fuelled tensions driven by fear of drug-to-drug interactions and mistrust between providers operating in different health-worlds. Conclusion Medical pluralism contributes to delays and interruptions of care along the HIV cascade, and mistrust between health providers. Region-wide interventions and policies are urgently needed in sub-Saharan Africa to minimise potential harm and consequences of medical pluralism for PLHIV. The role of sociocultural beliefs in mediating bottlenecks necessitate adoption of culture-sensitive approaches intervention designs and policy reforms appropriate to the context of sub-Saharan Africa.
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            Fundamentals of research methodology for healthcare professionals

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              Traditional healing practices in rural Bangladesh: a qualitative investigation

              Background Traditional healing practice is an important and integral part of healthcare systems in almost all countries of the world. Very few studies have addressed the holistic scenario of traditional healing practices in Bangladesh, although these serve around 80% of the ailing people. This study explored distinctive forms of traditional healing practices in rural Bangladesh. Methods During July to October 2007, the study team conducted 64 unstructured interviews, and 18 key informant interviews with traditional healers and patients from Bhabanipur and Jobra, two adjacent villages in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. The study also used participatory observations of traditional healing activities in the treatment centers. Results Majority of the community members, especially people of low socioeconomic status, first approached the traditional healers with their medical problems. Only after failure of such treatment did they move to qualified physicians for modern treatment. Interestingly, if this failed, they returned to the traditional healers. This study identified both religious and non-religious healing practices. The key religious healing practices reportedly included Kalami, Bhandai, and Spiritual Healing, whereas the non-religious healing practices included Sorcery, Kabiraji, and Home Medicine. Both patients and healers practiced self-medication at home with their indigenous knowledge. Kabiraji was widely practiced based on informal use of local medicinal plants in rural areas. Healers in both Kalami and Bhandari practices resorted to religious rituals, and usually used verses of holy books in healing, which required a firm belief of patients for the treatment to be effective. Sorcerers deliberately used their so-called supernatural power not only to treat a patient but also to cause harm to others upon secret request. The spiritual healing reportedly diagnosed and cured the health problems through communication with sacred spirits. Although the fee for diagnosis was small, spiritual healing required different types of treatment instruments, which made the treatment implicitly expensive. Conclusions Traditional healing was widely practiced as the means of primary healthcare in rural areas of Bangladesh, especially among the people with low socioeconomic status. The extent of services showed no decline with the advancement of modern medical sciences; rather it has increased with the passage of time.

                Author and article information

                S Afr Fam Pract (2004)
                S Afr Fam Pract (2004)
                South African Family Practice
                19 August 2022
                : 64
                : 1
                : 5559
                [1 ]Department of Health Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Avhatakali Ndou-Mammbona, ndoumaa@ 123456unisa.ac.za
                Author information
                © 2022. The Author

                Licensee: AOSIS. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

                : 13 April 2022
                : 11 June 2022
                Original Research

                culture,ethnography,healing,impact,management,traditional healer


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