by Sinikiwe Mlambo and Moses Chibaya

The national AIDS Council (NAC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education has roped in traditional health practitioners (THP) to spread awareness on HIV/AIDS.

The programme targets at least 300 THPs for training.

NAC Research and Documentation coordinator Freeman Dube said the initiative was prompted after the realization that traditional healers live with the people and are influential opinion-shapers. “In Africa the ratio of the THPs to the total population is 1:500, while the equivalent ratio for allopathic medical doctors is 1:40 000. Some 360 THPs will be trained in each of the country’s province to make a regional total of 1,080,” said Dube.

Dube said NAC, working with the Department of Traditional Medicine in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, recently conducted a training of the trainer (tot) course meant to equip facilitators with skills to impart to fellow THPs. “The Tot focused on the following areas: basic facts on HIV and AIDS, STIs and how to manage them, cultural perceptions of HIV, role and importance of THPs, opportunistic infections, infection control and hygiene standards, herbal medicine conservation  and best practices in harvesting, processing and usage and intellectual property rights.”

The provinces of Manicaland, Matebeleland North, Midlands, Masvingo, Mashonaland West and Central have been chosen for the SADC-funded pilot project to be launched in January 2013.

World Health Organisation estimates that about 80 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa make use of traditional health avenues.

Our correspondent, Moses Chibaya, reports that Christians in Zimbabwe are not lagging behind the  traditional health practitioners in efforts to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

A member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Pentecostal Holiness Church (PHC) has encouraged its members to condomise, a somewhat controversial  move for a country where many Christian churches are rather teaching abstinence.

The condom push has received oppositional thoughts from some sections in the ecclesiastical gathering, who feel it will make the young generation promiscuous.

Commenting on the recently ended church’s convention in Kuwadzana, a suburb of Harare,
Secretary General of the PHC Rev Edmore Nyawasha said, “If that [condom use] is the way to reduce the spread of the deadly pandemic, we should be real and face the reality of life. We will develop mechanisms to spread the gospel on how we should trim down the pandemic.”

Nyawasha’s comments were following up on the presentation that was made by Dr. Johannes Marisa, a medical practitioner, who emphasized that congregants seem to be ignorant on the virulent disease. 
“Several people have succumbed to the disease. So approaching it with kid gloves is not helping either, as practicing Christians and non-Christians are dying daily,” said Dr. Marisa.

The medical practitioner added that he will be held accountable by God if he does not preach the gospel to people, reiterating that if people cannot hold on to the AB concept of “abstinence and being faithful”, then they should consider the C — “condomise.”

The presentation by Dr. Marisa however did not get a healthy chew among the fundamental Christians in the PHC. Thomas Musonza, a youth in the church, “I agree that Dr. Marisa is a professional medical practitioner, but, at times, professional advice does not tally with spiritual advice. “The duty of the church and Christians is to steer people back to the teachings of the Bible. We cannot encourage immorality like that.”

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