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AIDS Care. 1997 Aug;9(4):417-25.

STD/HIV/AIDS knowledge, beliefs and practices of traditional healers in Botswana.

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Department of Health & Social Welfare, Mmabatho, Republic of South Africa.


The study investigated knowledge, beliefs, practices and experiences of traditional healers in relation to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV and AIDS. Traditional healers see about 70% of the African patients, with all kinds of ailments. The advent of HIV/AIDS and the introduction of home-based care in most African countries has increased the case-load of many traditional healers and increased the risk of contact with people living with HIV/AIDS. To protect themselves and their clients they need the right information on HIV/AIDS. Most traditional healers use their bare hands as a diagnostic tool and to apply topical medicine. Many traditional healers also utilize their mouths to suck blood from their patient's body as part of disease management. Most of the patients who are discharged from hospitals on home-based care usually end up at the traditional healer as relatives seek a second opinion or simply because they disagree with the diagnosis of incurable disease. This exposes traditional healers to HIV/AIDS. The study showed that traditional healers have some practices and beliefs, such as the use of the mouth for sucking blood (blood-letting), use of sharp instruments which is risky behaviour and the belief that HIV/AIDS is not a new disease. Further most of the traditional healers did not have adequate and in some cases correct information on HIV/AIDS. A few even believed they could cure AIDS as it has always been a disease they have been dealing with and were adamant it is not a new disease. Rapport between traditional healers and scientific medical personnel is essential for an effective and successful HIV/AIDS prevention and control programme.

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