Traditional healers may play role in spreading HIV, TB in Zimbabwe

Fears are rising in Zimbabwe that traditional and faith-based treatments may be fueling the prevalence of HIV and tuberculosis.

Such treatments are often favored by the local population because the healers are trusted community members and their services are often far less expensive than modern medicine, according to

Many healers, or N'angas, claim that they can cure TB and HIV, but often only succeed in delaying early treatment and diagnosis. The healers often lack crucial knowledge about HIV and TB.

"I just heard that there is TB and HIV on radio but I cannot read the newspaper since I did not go to school," healer Sekuru Julius Malazi said, reports. "All these medicines that I use to treat my patients come to me in the form of dreams then I will go into the bush to extract them."

Sekuru Malazi uses a small hut to conduct his sessions. The room is not ventilated and may even serve to expose his patients to TB. At his shrine, hundreds gather with different health problems, but he assists each without any form of protection from infection.

"My spirit does not allow me to use masks and gloves. I work bare-handed like this. It is the same spirit that guides me to diagnose and cure all forms of illnesses," Sekuru Malazi said, reports.

Many traditional healers, however, see themselves as working in conjunction with modern medicine to care for ill patients.

"If healers are not educated about preventative measures and precautions that they are supposed to use when assisting patients it would be a total disaster," traditional practitioner Sekuru Mbewe Kachuruka said, reports. "Some people come to our surgeries as they think that they have been bewitched but we also refer them to clinics because we do not have the X-ray machines to examine them. Once we know the actual cause of illness we can then help with treatment."