HIV/AIDS - Perspectives from Traditional Medicine


Gerard Bodeker, University of Oxford Medical School, UK & Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA. Green College, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6HG, UK


1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine




HIV, AIDS, traditional medicine, conmplementary and alternative medicine, herbal medicine


As the AIDS crisis leads an increasing number of countries to question their priorities in health expenditures, there is an emerging awareness that traditional health practitioners (THPs) can play an important role in delivering an AIDS prevention message. People living with HIV/AIDS in both developing and industrialized countries have high usage of traditional, complementary & alternative medicine (TCAM). Medicinal plants with antiviral, antimicrobial and immunostimulant properties may have role to play in managing HIV-related illness AIDS Prevention Messages: In some African countries, where there is only one doctor for every 20,000 people, there is one traditional health practitioner per 200-400 people. Recognizing the importance of bringing this grass roots resource into AIDS control programs, governments and NGOs have been working to form strategic alliances with THPs and to offer training and to evaluate their medicines. In South Africa when 1500 THPs were trained to give an HIV prevention message, 845,000 clients were reached within ten months. Herbal Medicines: There is growing recognition that some THPs may be able to offer treatment for opportunistic infections. The UNDP’s South East Asia & Development project has published a book on indigenous South East Asian Herbal remedies for symptomatic relief for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). And India’s Indigenous Systems of Medicine policy states: “In a scenario where antiretroviral drugs are extremely expensive, there is a great need to look into the indigenous systems of medicine (ISM), like Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. Some of the medicines in these systems have the potential of reducing the viral load in the body of the patient thus ensuring a healthier and longer life with the infection.” Key principles in this policy are (a) establishing the safety of medicines used in treating HIV-related illness, and  (b) ensuring that claims of efficacy are backed by evidence. Psychosocial dimensions: Research in Zimbabwe has supported the role of traditional medicine in improving the quality of life of HIV-I infected patients (Sebit et al., 2000). Research issues: Research challenges include: lack of research funding for adequate studies; the consistency of herbal preparations used during the study; availability of sufficient herbs for patients in the study; and non-compliance by patients with both modern & traditional medicine.