Western health practitioners' view about African traditional health practitioners' treatment and care of people living with HIV/AIDS

Curationis. 2006 Aug;29(3):15-23. doi: 10.4102/curationis.v29i3.1089.


African traditional health practitioners are an important source of health care for many South Africans. Thus, they are a health resource in this society. However, the integration of traditional health practitioners into the mainstream of health care is a complex process. Various factors contribute to this complexity, including the skepticism and reservation with which some western health practitioners view traditional health practitioners. This paper highlights the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the traditional healing system for people living with HIV/AIDS, as perceived by western health practitioners. The use of traditional practitioners as a choice of health care is attributed to both the strengths and weaknesses of this system of health care. The strength of the traditional healing system is in its sharing of the worldview and belief system of its users, it being an alternative to an inefficient western health care system (official system), privacy and absence of time limitations per consultation, treating patients psychologically, and scientifically unexplained physiological relief of the symptoms of specific illnesses. The perceived weaknesses of the traditional healing system include harmful treatment regimens, especially for people living with HIV/AIDS; prolonging the seeking of appropriate health care when traditional remedies fail to produce the desired effect; destroying interpersonal relationships of people living with HIV/AIDS through witchcraft accusations; psychological torment caused by the belief that HIV/AIDS can be cured by traditional remedies/intervention; and increasing the workload of western practitioners who are requested by patients to conduct multiple HIV tests after undergoing various traditional treatment regimens to cure HIV/AIDS. It is recommended that traditional practitioners be encouraged to adapt harmful traditional healing practices to the benefit of their patients in a non-judgemental and non-critical manner. In addition, joint workshops should be conducted with traditional and western practitioners to demystify traditional healing practices.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • Community Health Workers / psychology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / ethnology*
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workload