Evaluating Traditional Healers Knowledge and Practices Related to HIV Testing and Treatment in South Africa

November 2013 - Structural Prevention

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George, G., Chitindingu, E., and Gow, J. BMC International Health and Human Rights (2013), Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 45. E-publication ahead of print.

The authors implemented a cross-sectional survey in 2010 with 186 traditional healers (THs) in South Africa, assessing their knowledge of HIV and their willingness to collaborate with the formal medical system, to determine whether THs can adequately support HIV prevention and treatment efforts. The findings suggest that THs are a suitable but underused cadre for HIV services, particularly at the community level. South African THs reported regularly interacting with HIV-positive individuals. Sixty percent had previously received formal HIV training. Although HIV knowledge levels were relatively low, THs with previous HIV training had better outcomes. Most THs reported a willingness to collaborate with the medical system (70 percent of trained participants; 83 percent with no previous training). Thirty-six and 43 percent of trained and non-trained THs, respectively, believed that there is a cure for HIV. However, a significant proportion of all THs understood that having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person poses a risk for HIV transmission, and the majority (61 percent) reported that they recommend condom use. Respondents in both groups (89 percent of trained and 61 percent of non-trained THs) agreed that HIV can become resistant if antiretroviral doses are skipped. The authors concluded that an important next step is to develop HIV training programs to further educate THs.

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