In most rural areas in South Africa, traditional healers are the preferred and most accessible healthcare providers.
A clear distinction needs to be made between the words ‘cure’ and ‘treat’. While a traditional healer may assist in strengthening your immune system and can treat some symptoms of HIV with herbal remedies, they are not able to cure HIV. Even if an HIV-positive person starts feeling better due to an improved immune system, they are still infected with HIV, and need to be aware of their behaviours and adjust them accordingly. There is no cure for HIV and only by using ARVs exactly as prescribed can HIV be controlled in your body.
While some herbal remedies can help to relieve some HIV symptoms (and even the side-effects associated with taking ARVs), some of these remedies can cause harmful interactions when combined with ARVs. If you are consulting both a traditional healer and a medical professional at the same time, you must tell your healthcare provider so that they can advise you as to whether or not this is safe to do.
Most traditional healers have knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention methods, and acknowledge the fact that ARVs have to be taken for life. However, they often lack knowledge on other HIV transmission routes such as oral sex, dry sex (sex with without lubrication) and anal sex.
Following are false ideas that some traditional healers may tell you:
- HIV can be cured
- If a man infected with HIV has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured
- HIV is a punishment
- A person with HIV has been bewitched or cursed