Government urges traditional healers to help tackle HIV/AIDS

BURKINA FASO: Government urges traditional healers to help tackle HIV/AIDS

OUAGADOUGOU, 25 Feb 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - The government of Burkina Faso has urged traditional healers in West Africa to collaborate with scientific researchers in the fight against HIV/AIDS by using herbal treatments to address AIDS-related illnesses such as tuberculosis and diarrhoea.

Jean Gabriel Wango, the secretary general of the Ministry of Health, made the appeal at the opening of a week-long international exhibition of traditional medicines in the capital Ouagadougou on Monday.

"There is no doubt that traditional herbs can be used to cure some infectious disease related to HIV/AIDS, but we need a scientific validation of these herbs properties before using them in a larger scale," he said.

The fourth International Traditional Medicine Show (SIRENA) in Ouagadougou has brought togther traditional healers from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Togo, Benin, France and China under the theme "Traditional medicine, a possible way to combat HIV/AIDS".

"Traditional healers have always been rather suspicious of modern practitioners. The former always think the latter will steal their knowledge," Wango noted.

The show is being held under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the non-governmental organisation Traditional Medicine Promotion (PROMETRA).

A lot of attention has been given to traditional healers in the fight against AIDS in Burkina Faso since the International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually transmitted Diseases (ICASA) was held in Ouagadougou in December 2001.

At that forum, traditional healers were invited to share their views with scientific researchers.

According to WHO, 80 percent of Africans regularly consult traditional healers.

Participants at this week's SIRENA meeting said traditional healers could play a key role in helping to gain social acceptance for people living with AIDS in their home community, because the healers themselves are widely respected.

"There has been a lot of progress in the use of traditional herbs, particularly regarding their naming, the indication of side effects and the way they should be taken," said Marc Olivier, the head of Pharma, a French project that is advising some 300 Burkina traditional healers in the development and harvesting of plants for medicine.

"These medicines really are effective and people really believe in the healers. These are issues that make people consult traditional healers before going to hospitals, quite apart from the cost factor," Olivier told PlusNews.

Burkina Faso already hosts a WHO-supported out-patient centre where people living with HIV/AIDS are treated with traditional medicine.


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