The Role of Traditional Health Practitioners in STIs Management

Feb 18, 2021 | News

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DDurban – THE South African National Aids Council (SANAC) has teamed up with traditional healers to further combat the spread of HIV by 2030.

Speaking at a webinar held yesterday as part of on-going Sexual and Reproductive Health Month as well as STI/Condom Week, SANAC said inclusivity was critical in their strategy to stop the spread of HIV.

“Indigenous healing methods are deeply embedded in South African society and it’s too risky for us to leave the richness of our traditional health systems behind. We will continue to lobby the government for much greater inclusivity of our traditional healers because they too are front-liners,” said SANAC chief executive, Dr. Thembisile Xulu.

Research from Sanac showed that South Africa was still among the worst affected countries in Africa regarding STIs.

“There are currently close to 8 million people living with HIV infection, with an estimated prevalence of 12.2% in men aged 15 to 49 and 25% in women in the same age group. Prevalence is higher among pregnant women at 30%.

“Worldwide more than a million STIs are acquired each day more than one in every four new HIV infections were among young people aged 15 to 24 years and 10% were among adolescents aged 10 to14 years,” said Dr Thato Chidarikire, director of the HIV Prevention Programmes at the National Department of Health.

According to SANAC, 80 to 85% of South Africans will at some point in their lives consult with a traditional health practitioner (THP), so “it is important that they are integrated more into the strategic framework for the prevention and control of STIs and that they form a key part of the advocacy brief for ending STIs as health concerns by 2030”.

“This is a huge percentage and representative of a significant constituency which further substantiates the studies that have been done by SANAC over the years. You would understand why people come to see us first when ailments arise because we live where people are and we operate 24 hours a day,” said Gogo Sheila Mbele-Khama, current Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) Commissioner and THP.

SANAC said it would review SA’s progress against strategies on STIs and traditional medicine done globally and by the World Health Organization and the South African Development Community to develop its advocacy brief and lead South Africa’s action plan towards the elimination of STIs in line with the national strategic plan.

Daily News / Slindile Nyathikazi