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Shaming and blaming: Medical myths, traditional health practitioners and HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Year: 2008
Working paper number: 211
Author: Wreford, Joanne
Unit: ASRU
Abstract:

This paper examines some often repeated 'medical myths' about Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs) in South Africa, in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Narratives have served many purposes in the pandemic: the stories included here provide specific commentary, often implicitly derogatory or critical, on the role of THPs. The anecdotes can be seen to reflect the uneasy interaction generally prevailing between the traditional and biomedical paradigms in South Africa. The paper first examines some of the reasons for the biomedical presumptions that underlie these narratives. It argues that in attributing blame, the stories exert an unhelpful effect and undermine confidence in the possibility of collaborative medical efforts against HIV and AIDS. In contrast, the paper utilises field evidence to suggest that, given mutual respect, THPs can be successfully drawn into biomedical prevention and treatment interventions, and thereby improve their efficacy.


Publication file: WP211.pdf
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