Wall Street Journal Examines U.S. Program That Aims To Combine Clinical Care With Traditional Healing To Treat HIV/AIDS in South Africa
The Wall Street Journal on Friday examined a U.S.-funded program that aims to integrate clinical care with traditional healing to treat HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The U.S. provided $700,000 in initial funding for the pilot program, which was launched in March in Durban, South Africa, the Journal reports. The Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Durban health department and the Traditional Health Practitioners Councils launched the program, in which health experts will train 375 traditional healers to recognize and test patients for HIV using rapid tests and refer those who test positive to Western-style health clinics. The traditional healers also will keep records of clients' progress which health officials will collect to see how the disease is progressing. The project's directors also are encouraging medical directors to refer HIV-positive patients to traditional healers for palliative and in-home care. If the program is successful in Durban, the U.S. hopes to implement it throughout South Africa -- where 80% of people visit traditional healers -- and in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative "requires bridging a doctor-healer divide that reflects vastly different medical cultures," the Journal reports. Physicians typically are "deeply suspicious" of traditional healers and their methods and say they sometimes have to treat patients who have been poisoned after taking traditional medicines, according to the Journal. Suspiscion is present on both sides, as healers believe drug companies are seeking to steal their medicinal recipes. James Hartzell, the program's director, said that having access to physicians who can provide the latest drugs and traditional healers who offer personalized care will benefit HIV-positive patients (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 5/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.