Traditional healers meet

2015-08-05 06:00
TRADITIONAL healers in the province held a first-of-its-kind summit at Marrick Farm outside Kimberley.
Boipelo Mere

TRADITIONAL healers in the province held a first-of-its-kind summit at Marrick Farm outside Kimberley. Photos: Boipelo Mere

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THE current Provincial Strategic Plan (2012-’16) presents a consensus map for the Northern Cape to achieve Provincial Access towards HIV prevention, treatment, and care and support by 2016.

The Provincial Strategic Plan for the Northern Cape aims to reduce HIV, TB and STI transmission and related HIV and TB mortality, disability and the social impact thereof.

There are four strategic-crafted objectives to guide both government and civil society in the realisation of the goals. These are: address social and structural barriers to HIV, STI and TB prevention, care and impact; prevent new HIV, STI and TB infections; sustain health and wellness; as well as to increase the protection of human rights and improve access to justice.

To this end, the province meets all sectors whose aims and objectives are similar to what government hopes to achieve.

Last week the government and civil society met with members of traditional health practitioners from all the districts of the province during a summit under the theme Traditional Health Practitioners take a stand in the fight against HIV and TB.

This was in support of South Africa’s 20-year vision for zero new HIV and TB infections, zero new infections due to vertical transmission, zero preventable deaths associated with HIV and TB, and zero discrimination associated with HIV and TB.

The multisectoral approach to HIV and TB is aimed at ensuring that all stakeholders play a meaningful role in contributing towards achieving the vision.

According to a government document prepared for this summit, for the comprehensive management of HIV and Aids and TB to be effective, community initiatives must be reinforced and new ones must be nurtured as they establish themselves.

According to the World Health Organisation,“traditional medicine includes a diverse practice, approach, knowledge and beliefs that incorporate plant-, animal- and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercise applied singularly or in combination to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness”.

Traditional health practitioners, namely traditional healers, are generally divided into two categories: those who serve the role of diviner-diagnostician and those who are healers or herbalists. These practitioners, however, also include traditional surgeons (those who perform traditional circumcisions) and traditional midwives (performing massage and aiding in labour).

According to the Northern Cape government, traditional healers play an integral role in the prevention and treatment of HIV and TB, as well as the care and support of patients, and therefore need the support, education and cooperation that formal health-care systems might be able to offer; while the latter could potentially expand the reach and efficacy of HIV prevention and treatment programmes by enlisting the help of traditional health practitioners. This summit aimed to ensure capacity development in the traditional health-care sector by motivating involvement in the local and district Aids councils and to provide relevant information and facilitate networking to build good relations in education, care, treatment and support programmes. It was also aimed at enabling traditional health practitioners to become agents of change in their communities and reduce the impact of HIV/Aids on traditional health-care practitioners by familiarising them with the key performance indicators of the Provincial Strategic Plan.

This was a platform to encourage conversation about the challenges confronting the sector today and how the baton of leadership can be passed on.

Paula Makatesi, head of the Northern Cape Secretariat of the Provincial Aids Council, said the summit had positive discussions and the participants understood the aims and objectives.

“I am happy about the outcomes of the summit, although it could be improved over time, as the more we meet, the better it will become,” Makatesi said.

“I am also impressed with the issues that were discussed. Some of the topics need to be mystified and demystified to find common ground between the traditional medicines and western medicines.”

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