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Soc Afr SIDA. 1996 Jul;(13):2-3.

The role of traditional healers in HIV / AIDS counselling in Kampala, Uganda. Key issues and debates: traditional healers.



Traditional medicine is the most widely established and available health care system in Uganda. The emergence of AIDS has presented traditional healers with a substantial challenge. The Traditional and Modern Health Practitioners Together Against AIDS Project was established in 1992 to create a framework for respectful collaboration between traditional healers and medical doctors. Project activities have included comparative clinical trials of herbal treatments for specific HIV/AIDS symptoms for which few modern treatment regimens are available and training to empower traditional healers in STD/HIV counseling and education for women. The training emerged from administration of a baseline survey on AIDS to 55 healers. On the basis of community recognition as a healer, inclusion in their client population of women with AIDS, use of herbal treatments, and interest in the project, 17 of the interviewed healers were selected to participate in the initial training. The 15-month AIDS training (3 days/month), developed with input from healers and community women, covers areas such as counseling, leadership, cultural beliefs and practices, sexuality, and gender relations. Since traditional counseling is largely dependent on the spiritual medium on which the healer bases the treatment, counseling was conceptualized broadly as "a helping relationship aimed at empowering an individual to take action to cope with whatever problem he or she may be confronted with." Over time, trained healers became able to discuss AIDS with all clients, without concerns of offending them. Interviews with 180 female clients of 9 of the trained healers documented changes in the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of both healers and patients. Especially notable was a new willingness on the part of traditional healers to demonstrate and offer condoms.

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