Indigenous Beliefs, HIV and Health Seeking Behaviour.
(2015) Indigenous Beliefs, HIV and Health Seeking Behaviour., no. 51.
Background: Globally there are 34 million people living with HIV and AIDS, with 68% of these individuals living in sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda is often cited as the success story in the fight against HIV and AIDS due to their reduction in both prevalence and incidence early in the epidemic. However, HIV and AIDS remains a significant burden with 7.7% of people aged 15-49 infected with the virus (UAC, 2012). Despite the high HIV prevalence within the country, there is a huge shortage of bio-medical health care personnel, with first line care delivered by traditional health practitioners to 70% of the population. Aim: This study aims to ascertain the perceived role of traditional health practitioners in the management and treatment of HIV and AIDS, and how indigenous spiritual beliefs are perceived to affect individuals' HIV health seeking behaviour. Methods: The work of Jean-François Lyotard and Arthur Kleinman were used as a framework to understand human experiences of suffering and illness. This study utilized Qualitative research methods, using both semi-structured interviews and group interviews as research methods with twenty three participants. Data was recorded, transcribed and then analyzed using a thematic analysis. Findings/discussion: findings presented illustrate the diverse work of THPs, often encompassing both herbal and spiritual aspects of diagnosis and treatment. THPs present in this study illustrated valuable counseling services in the management of HIV and AIDS. Amongst the respondents it was perceived that the symptoms of HIV were often misinterpreted as witchcraft. Additionally, a tension between bio-medical health workers and traditional health practitioners about the effectiveness of the treatments provided by each health care provider was highlighted. Furthermore, the dangers of the use of traditional health practitioners in the treatment and management of HIV is highlighted by bio-medical health practitioners present in this study. The implications of these findings for collaboration between the two health sectors are discussed. It is argued that identifying opportunities for collaboration, and trusted networks of THPs working within communities, with the aim understanding diverse explanatory models off illness and promoting greater collaboration between the two systems would be extremely valuable in this context.