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SWAZILAND: Thabile Xaba, "I can take the ARVs now if I like but... I must consult the ancestors"

Photo: James Hall/IRIN
"No healer knows the cure for AIDS"
MBABANE, 1 March 2011 (PlusNews) - Most Swazis go to traditional healers if they feel ill, but in a country with the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate healers are struggling to cope. Thabile Xaba, 37, a healer who has been diagnosed HIV-positive at a clinic, told IRIN about her experiences.

"I was almost done with high school when our traditional healer told me the ancestral spirits wanted me to become a healer. He did this by reading the `bones’, which is what I can now do too. A person who is chosen must agree or there will be misfortune, like an illness will strike you. You must accept your fate. It is like being chosen as one of the king’s wives. You accept it.

"I was 17 and there was this disease called AIDS that none of the healers knew what to do with. The government doctors didn’t know much either. That was 20 years ago. Today the NGOs give us condoms to give to our patients in the `indumba’ [healing hut]. But there was none of that at the time. We were all very ignorant.

"We believed that if we washed after sex we would get rid of the germs that cause AIDS. I did this but I still got infected. I got very sick and weak. I lost weight. Only two years ago I got a blood test and found I am HIV-positive. I can take the ARVs now if I like but I don’t know. I have lived without them. I must consult the ancestors.

“Our patients go to clinics also. But whenever they can they come to us because we know things about traditional illnesses that the doctors do not. There are things we treat as well as the hospitals do, and we know many things. No one wants to go and queue in the clinic which is an unfriendly environment and I believe can make you worse because of the stress of going there. You can come to us and sit on the mat in our hut, out of the sun, and discuss your problem and your family and life. The doctors don’t listen; they just dictate to you to do this and that. We healers listen to people.

"I know the symptoms of HIV now, and I refer people to the clinics. No healer knows the cure for AIDS. Some healers say they do but they keep it secret to themselves, so I think they are just out for publicity. I wish we could wed the two types of healing. The African healers are popular with the African people. The doctors are necessary... but there are not enough staff or supplies, and the endless queues and the arrogance sometimes of the staff can be unpleasant. But even if the clinics were perfect, people would still go to their healers. It is part of African culture.

"I have a daughter who was my age when I became a healer. The ancestors have not chosen her to be a healer. She wants to become a nurse. She can start practising on me when I start taking my ARVs."

jh/kn/cb

Theme(s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

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

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