AIDS and STDs in Africa: Bridging the Gap between Traditional Healing and Modern Medicine

AIDS and STDs in Africa: Bridging the Gap between Traditional Healing and Modern Medicine

AIDS and STDs in Africa: Bridging the Gap between Traditional Healing and Modern Medicine

AIDS and STDs in Africa: Bridging the Gap between Traditional Healing and Modern Medicine

Synopsis

"Since sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) facilitate the transmission of AIDS and since most STD cases are brought to traditional healers, Green argues that biomedical practitioners must work together with healers to help contain the epidemic. Drawing upon research in southern, East, and West Africa, he examines the role of traditional healers in providing health care and collaborative AIDS/STD and family planning programs in AIDS prevention." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The war against AIDS in Africa is not going well ("Africa" denotes sub-Saharan Africa throughout this book). In his opening address to the 8th International Conference on AIDS (1992), Jonathan Mann admitted, "The old public health vision has become a straightjacket" confining planners to approaches to the prevention of AIDS that are not succeeding. In an interview with Africa Report (1992), Dr. Peter Lamptey, director of USAID's $168 million global project to control AIDS, observes that with only a very few exceptions, even the most successful condom promotion programs in Africa have "failed to make a dent in the epidemic." I agree with these assessments. I believe that the two-pronged approach that has dominated AIDS control programs thus far--namely, the promotion of condom use and restricting one's number of sexual partners (and there may be a mixed message right there)--has merit but is too little, too late for Africa.

For all their major emphasis in AIDS control programs in Africa (and elsewhere), in actual use condoms may only have a 50 percent effectiveness rate in reducing most sexually transmitted diseases. This is due to incorrect usage and to available products being of poor quality, partly because of inadequate storage and transportation under tropical conditions. These reasons are quite apart from problems of availability and acceptability in Africa. Millions of dollars have been spent on promotion and millions of condoms have been distributed in Uganda, the African nation with the greatest number of AIDS cases, yet the percentage of men regularly using condoms was about 3 percent in early 1993. How much programmatic emphasis on condoms is justified if at best we can hope to increase condom prevalence from 3 percent to perhaps twice that in the next two to three years? Note also that by African standards, condoms are reasonably accessible and AIDS awareness is high in Uganda. In view of all these problems, where else should there be programmatic emphasis?

AIDS is primarily a heterosexually transmitted disease in sub-Saharan Africa, unlike the pattern found in the industrialized West. Heterosexual intercourse, in fact, accounts for over 80 percent of African HIV cases. A major contributing factor appears to be the prevalence of other untreated . . .

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