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The quest for healing in South Africa's age of AIDS

Year: 2006
Working paper number: 155
Author: Nattrass, Nicoli
Unit: ASRU

Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is the most effective means of extending the lives of people living with AIDS – yet only 25% of those in South Africa estimated to need it are receiving HAART.  Those who cannot access HAART (or choose not to take it) may opt to use 'traditional' healing instead. Some people will do both. This article reviews the emerging South African literature exploring the interface between biomedical and traditional healing in this age of AIDS. It includes a discussion of recent relevant biographies and books. Particular attention is paid to the contrasting experiences of Edwin Cameron who took HAART and continues to live a productive life, and Fana Khaba, who rejected HAART in favour of untested substances. The paper notes how the diagnosis of AIDS as being caused by witchcraft may have psychological benefits (it shifts blame and responsibility to others) it can also exacerbate social tensions and undermine the health of those living with AIDS. It is argued that the state has an obligation to provide information to AIDS patients about the best scientifically tested medications.

Publication file: wp155.pdf