HIV/AIDS fosters collaboration between traditional healers, western medicine in Zambia

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The spread of HIV in Zambia is fostering collaboration between traditional healers and practitioners of Western medicine, IRIN News reports.

The Zambian government earlier this year commissioned the first clinical trials of some traditional remedies for HIV/AIDS.

The tests were conducted by medical doctors, who assessed the composition and properties of a number of traditional medicines and monitored the CD4+ T cell counts, viral loads and appetites of HIV-positive people receiving the treatments.

Initial results show that some of the formulas increase people's CD4+ T cell counts, while others lower viral loads or treat opportunistic infections, Justine Mwiinga, a spokesperson for the National HIV/AIDS Council, said, stressing that none of the formulas was found to "cure AIDS."

She added that the results of the tests would be published soon. Rodwell Vongo, president of the 40,000-member Traditional Health Practitioners Association of Zambia, urged collaboration between traditional healers and practitioners of modern medicine.

"[I]f we allow the divide between healers and medical doctors to continue, healers may become counterproductive because we surely have the authority to command any patient to discontinue the medical doctors' prescribed medicine," Vongo said, adding that the two types of healers working together could help "cushion government's depleted resources and save many lives."

An estimated 1.6 million of Zambia's 10 million people are HIV-positive, and 60,000 of them are receiving antiretroviral drugs.

In addition, many of Zambia's health workers have left the country to work in countries where the conditions are better and the salaries are higher, according to IRIN News.

The World Health Organization has said traditional healers are a crucial factor in HIV prevention and care and emphasized the need for traditional healers and health care providers to work together to combat the disease (IRIN News, 8/28).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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