The proposition to regulate traditional healers was one of many put forth by about 120 delegates at a recent Northern Cape Provincial AIDS Council meeting.
The meeting aimed to not only gauge healers’ participation in their local district AIDS councils but also discuss way in which traditional healers could be incorporated into the public health system. This included strengthening referral links between healers and health facilities in cases where patients may be living with HIV, TB or chronic illnesses like high blood pressure.
“HIV does not require science alone,” said Dean Hendricks, who represents faith-based organisations on the provincial AIDS council. “We need a multidisciplinary collaboration (to address HIV), which includes traditional health practioners.”
In an opening address, traditional sector leader for the provincial AIDS council Benny Collins told OurHealth that the traditional sector was crucial in achieving ambitious international targets that Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi agreed to last year.
Dubbed as the “90-90-90” targets, these goals call for 90 percent of HIV-positive people know their status, access treatment and adhere well enough to treatment to achieve undectable HIV viral loads by 2020.
“Traditional health practioners are the first point of entry for our patients,” said Collins, who represents the traditional sector on the provincial AIDS council. “Without a good relationship, we will not be able to meet the 90-90-90 targets.”
Practioners say the public health system marginalises them
However, traditional healers at the summit said they continue to feel marginalised and excluded by the public health systems. Some demanded to know why hospitals and clinics did not allow traditional practitioners to perform their duties at the facilities.
While the Northern Cape Department of Health’s Elizabeth Manyetsa implored healers to continue with Department of Health trainings, the department’s Pulane Balepile said it was important for the sector to put their complaints to the department in writing.
Working with the department’s TB unit, Balepile said the department would continue to train healers in TB and HIV, chronic illnesses, treatment literacy and referral tracking.
“Traditional practioners have the power, but it is important that they don’t take advantage of their power to give wrong information,” she said. “For the fact that society trusts traditional health practioners, they need to form part of the referral pathway. “
The summit resolved to conduct regular community dialogues to allow traditional healers to address HIV prevention, maternal mortality and medical male circumcision demand among others.