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Tuesday 15 November 2005
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ZAMBIA: Traditional healers called in to treat HIV/AIDS

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

LUSAKA, 19 May (PLUSNEWS) - With less than two percent of HIV-infected Zambians able to access antiretrovirals, plans were announced on Tuesday to begin testing traditional medicines as an alternative treatment for the pandemic.

Dr Patrick Chikusu, head of the department of pharmacy at the University of Zambia (UNZA), and chairman of the National Aids Council (NAC) Technical Working Group on Traditional and Alternative Remedies, said orthodox medicines on their own had failed to contain the rising number of HIV/AIDS deaths, and it was time alternative medicines were tested for their efficacy in treating the disease.

The announcement ended many years of debate and speculation in Zambia as to whether modern and traditional medicines could be combined in the fight against the pandemic.

Chikusu has invited all those with claims to alternative treatment to submit samples of their medicines to NAC, where they will be subjected to thorough laboratory tests and only administered to patients after being approved.

The decision to test herbal remedies was made following the approval of a project proposal submitted to NAC by UNZA's school of medicine.

An analysis of herbal formulations for HIV treatment by Dr Ipshita Chatterjee, a lecturer in the department of Physiological sciences at the university, observed that conventional medicine was increasingly being supported by complementary or alternative therapies.

During the review of policy options for contemporary health care development, the World Health Organisation's first global strategy on alternative medicine advocated for the integration of the two types of treatment.

"Treating patients with traditional medicines has as much validity now as it did thousands of years ago - combined forces of traditional and modern medicines would therefore be advantageous to the ailing patients," said Chikusu.

WHO has said that adequate technological infrastructure must be in place to maximise the traditional medicinal value of plants, especially in the context of primary health care.

Statistics from NAC show that about two million people in Zambia are living with HIV, of which half are believed to have already developed AIDS.


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