TRADITIONAL medicine should be included in the national health strategic plan, the fifth annual HIV-Aids conference under way in Durban heard yesterday.

South African Indigenous Healthcare Research chairperson Nceba Gqaleni told the conference the plan should inculcate cultural values in support of efforts to prevent HIV and reduce the impact of Aids in the province and nationally.


Gqaleni said more research needed to be done around traditional medicines and their contribution to helping those who do not qualify for treatment at private health institutions.

"The biggest issue is that the Health Department does not provide funding for any medical research in the province but the Department of Science and Technology has been the major source of research funding in South Africa," Gqaleni said.

He said the reason behind the Health Department not funding any medical research is "the current administration comes from an era traditional when medicine was associated with Aids denialism.

"I believe in traditional medicines but that does not make me an Aids denialist," Gqaleni said.

"We need to contextualise this and play a competitive role in prevention, treatment care and support, researching, monitoring and surveillance, advocacy, investment and developing new strategies and solutions with no short cuts.

"It is a fact that our people consult traditional healers for help.

"It's not about amakhambi (herbs) but an integrated approach to healthcare.

"This reflects our ignorance and we sideline the utmost contribution that they can make.

"There are approximately sixmillion people who are HIV positive. Of these, onemillion qualify for anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) and a staggering fivemillion still don't qualify for ARVs.

"About 4,2million HIV-positive people are co-infected with tuberculosis, while 40million are either uninfected or their status is unknown, Gqaleni said.

He said the promotion of genuine collaboration between traditional health practitioners and health professionals will enhance the work of both sectors and benefit patients.

Traditional medicine trials on patients who do not qualify for ARVs are in progress in the provinces' hospitals, but the results have not been released yet.

The two-day conference was officially opened by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize who applauded the organisers for "giving me the platform to share ideas and experiences and pave a way forward in the fight against HIV/Aids in South Africa".

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