Another HIV testing resource

2017-02-26 18:58
Traditional healer Sibongile Madlala is now testing people from her home, counselling them and referring them to the local clinic for further treatment. She said her customers are happy with the HIV testing services and most are eager to get tested. Posing for the picture with Madlala is iTeach operation manager Sandile Hlongwane.

Traditional healer Sibongile Madlala is now testing people from her home, counselling them and referring them to the local clinic for further treatment. She said her customers are happy with the HIV testing services and most are eager to get tested. Posing for the picture with Madlala is iTeach operation manager Sandile Hlongwane. (Nompilo Kunene)

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In an effort to reduce the rate of undetected and untreated cases of HIV infections, local traditional healers are being trained to carry out HIV tests and do counselling at their homes.

A non-government organisation called iTeach, which operates out of Edendale Hospital, is working together with local traditional healers and the KZN Department of Health to train traditional healers to become qualified HIV testing counsellors.

The operations manager of iTeach, Sandile Hlongwane, told Weekend Witness that so far 11 traditional healers from around Pietermaritzburg have been trained and are now practising HIV testing counsellors.

“Our aim is to bring testing to the people. We want to make HIV testing accessible to everyone, even those who choose to visit a makhosi [traditional healer] instead of a clinic,” said Hlongwane.

Hlongwane said the programme is still in its research phase and the hope is that when the research is complete and the project is given the final go-ahead by the KZN Health Department, it will be rolled out to other provinces.

Weekend Witness visited one of the traditional healers who now works as an HIV counsellor at her home in Esigodini, upper Edendale.

Sibongile Madlala (makhosi) said that she joined iTeach in 2010.

“I noticed that some of my customers had symptoms that I as a makhosi could not treat and it was pointless giving them the same remedy because it did not help them,’’ said Madlala.

Madlala said she was referred to iTeach where she was trained along with 10 other local traditional healers.

She said they were taught about the basics of HIV, TB and counselling.

Madlala said she is now a qualified HIV counsellor and has been practising from the local clinic and at home for a while now.

“People have been receiving us very well. They seem more comfortable opening up to us and undergoing testing,” she said.

She said when her customers visit her home seeking traditional advice and help she asks if they know their HIV status. If not she offers to test them there and then.

“No one is forced to disclose their status but it is always helpful to know before treating people because sometimes the remedies we give them clash with their sickness,” said Madlala.

Madlala said testing from her home and testing at the clinic is the same, but most people are still uncomfortable with visiting the clinic where they feel “exposed”.

Hlongwane from iTeach said they want to let people know about the makhosis who operate out of the various townships and want to encourage people to visit them if they wish to get tested.

He said the research being done is two-phased and is structured to assist those who have been living with the virus for a while but are not aware of it, as well as those who have been recently infected.

“The makhosis write referral letters to the clinic for all those found to be positive. For those whose results come back negative but are still in the window period, we send their blood samples to a testing lab in Durban and receive their results the following day.

“If their results come back positive, doctors immediately prescribe ARVs for them to prevent them from showing symptoms or being ill.”

He said so far people are warming up to the idea and iTeach is in the process of preparing to train more traditional healers.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hiv testing

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