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Traditional African Medicine: Herbalism, Spirituality and Treating HIV/AIDS

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AIDS / HIV related image Paul Hakimata/PhotoSpin

Throughout Africa, there are more traditional healers than trained medical practitioners, according to the book Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948. The traditional healers promote traditional African medicine, a form of holistic health that combines spiritual beliefs and herbalism to treat patients. Because traditional healers are so well-respected and trusted by their communities, many practitioners and followers of westernized medicine believe the healers can play an important role in treating deadly epidemics such as HIV/AIDS among Africans.

Avert.org says that during colonial rule, traditional African medicine was almost eliminated because many disagreed with the medical practice’s belief in witchcraft. However, the traditional form of medicine remains in Africa today and most Africans use it as their health care. In traditional African medicine, healers strive to discover the primary cause of an illness rather than trying to treat all the symptoms. Healers pass on knowledge of traditional medicine from generation to generation.

Herbalism is one of the main methods used to treat various sicknesses in traditional African medicine. Since the continent of Africa has an abundance of herbs and plants from areas such as rain forests, healers use the indigenous flora as treatments. According to livestrong.com, African healers are knowledgeable of which herbs to use, what the herbs treat and how to combine the various herbs and plants to create treatment remedies. When extreme illnesses arise, western medicine usually performs surgery or prescribes antibiotics, but traditional African healers use herbal medicines “for equalizing unbalanced relationships within the social or spiritual order,” said Aone Mokaila in her paper at Drury University’s Interdisciplinary Research Conference. For a full list of typical traditional African herbs and their uses, look at: http://www.herbalremediesworld.com/African-herbal-remedies.html

Spiritual beliefs such as witchcraft affect traditional African medicine.

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Terrible that the epidemic has taken grip in that region of the world. Biggest question to me is how did HIV get there?!? With Guatemala suing John Hopkins Hospital and US + European Doctors for medical studies in the 60's, 70's and 80's that spread diseases including HIV, I wouldn't be shocked if the Afrikaner gov't. had something to do with the release of HIV on the growing anti white gov't population... SMH

April 7, 2015 - 8:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

South Africa's denial of AIDS and President Mbeki's belief that AZT is poisonous, and instead, reliance on traditional healing, has led it to be the number one most HIV-infected country in the world. Because of the belief that traditionalists could cure, or even manage HIV/AIDS, millions of people have been denied the cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) that could have saved their lives, a move that effectively murdered hundreds of thousands of South Africans.
It was only through the work of people like Zackie Achmat and TAC, and support from Nelson Mandela, WHO's AIDS Division Chief Jim Yong Kim and Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, who broke diplomatic ranks and called the South African government "obtuse, dilatory and negligent" that change finally came. It was not until 2006 when deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge stepped forward and said the government had been "in denial at the highest levels" about the success of ARVs that change finally began.
There is no success against fighting or managing AIDS using traditional African medicine, although it certainly has its merits elsewhere. To suggest so at this point, when life-saving ARVs are finally becoming available in large quantities to most African countries, is a huge step backward.
Suggested reading: "28: Stories of AIDS in Africa" by award-winning journalist Stephanie Nolen.

August 12, 2011 - 10:23am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

It is a tragedy that the denial of anti-retroviral drugs to South Africans has led to so many deaths. It should be absolutely obvious to anyone that traditional African medicine has no healing affect on the HIV virus. If a traditional cure existed, the great drug companies would have leapt at a chance to market it,

March 27, 2015 - 2:40am
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