"The man who believed he had AIDS was cured": AIDS and sexually-transmitted infection treatment-seeking behaviour in rural Mwanza, Tanzania [Internet]

Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
AIDS Care (Impact Factor: 1.6). 08/2006; 18(5):460-6. DOI: 10.1080/09540120500220367
Source: PubMed


Most people living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa have had neither a biomedical diagnosis nor antiretroviral medication, leading to the question of how individuals understand and treat AIDS. This study examined general illness, sexually-transmitted infection (STI) and AIDS treatment-seeking behaviour in rural Mwanza, Tanzania. From 1999-2002, participant observation was carried out in nine villages for a total of 158 person-weeks. Treatments were pluralistic and opportunistic, usually beginning with home remedies (western or traditional), followed by visits to traditional healers (THs) and/or health facilities (HFs). THs were sometimes preferred over HFs because of familiarity, trust, accessibility, expense, payment plans, and the perceived cause, nature and severity of the illness, e.g. only THs were believed to successfully treat bewitchment. Some people, particularly young girls, delayed or avoided seeking treatment for STIs for fear of stigma. Most STIs were attributed to natural causes, but AIDS was sometimes attributed to witchcraft. Locally available biomedical care of people with AIDS-like symptoms consisted of basic treatment of opportunistic infections. Most such individuals repeatedly visited THs and HFs, but many stopped attending HFs because they came to believe they could not be cured there. Some THs claimed to cure witchcraft-induced, AIDS-like illnesses. There is an urgent need for improved biomedical services, and TH interventions could be important in future HIV/AIDS education and care.

Download full-text


Available from: David Ross, Jul 21, 2014
  • Source
    • "It was predicted that the rollout of ART services in sub-Saharan Africa would lead to rapid increases in the uptake of VCT, as people would be motivated to learn their status in order to access treatment [6]. However, qualitative research from Mwanza region in rural Tanzania has shown that misconceptions around ART are common, with some people believing that ART kills people [7,8], or that HIV can be cured by traditional healers [9] or miracles [10]. These beliefs may mean that people who suspect that they are infected are less likely to take up VCT services, if they do not expect that it would lead to an effective treatment for their condition. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Despite the introduction of free antiretroviral therapy (ART), the use of voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services remains persistently low in many African countries. This study investigates how prior experience of HIV and VCT, and knowledge about HIV and ART influence VCT use in rural Tanzania. In 2006--7, VCT was offered to study participants during the fifth survey round of an HIV community cohort study that includes HIV testing for research purposes without results disclosure, and a questionnaire covering knowledge, attitudes and practices around HIV infection and HIV services. Categorical variables were created for HIV knowledge and ART knowledge, with "good" HIV and ART knowledge defined as correctly answering at least 4/6 and 5/7 questions about HIV and ART respectively. Experience of HIV was defined as knowing people living with HIV, or having died from AIDS. Logistic regression methods were used to assess how HIV and ART knowledge, and prior experiences of HIV and VCT were associated with VCT uptake, with adjustment for HIV status and socio-demographic confounders. 2,695/3,886 (69%) men and 2,708/5,575 women (49%) had "good" HIV knowledge, while 613/3,886 (16%) men and 585/5575 (10%) women had "good" ART knowledge. Misconceptions about HIV transmission were common, including through kissing (55% of women, 43% of men), or mosquito bites (42% of women, 34% of men).19% of men and 16% of women used VCT during the survey. After controlling for HIV status and socio-demographic factors, the odds of VCT use were lower among those with poor HIV knowledge (aOR:0.5; p = 0.01 for men and aOR = 0.6; p < 0.01 for women) and poor ART knowledge (aOR:0.8; p = 0.06 for men, aOR:0.8; p < 0.01 for women), and higher among those with HIV experience (aOR:1.3 for men and aOR = 1.6 for women, p < 0.01) and positive prior VCT experience (aOR:2.0 for all men and aOR = 2.0 for HIV-negative women only, p < 0.001). Two years after the introduction of free ART in this setting, misconceptions regarding HIV transmission remain rife and knowledge regarding treatment is worryingly poor, especially among women and HIV-positive people. Further HIV-related information, education and communication activities are urgently needed to improve VCT uptake in rural Tanzania.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · BMC Public Health
  • Source
    • "Misconceptions, myths and stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS are rife in many sub-Saharan African settings, hindering HIV education [1-6]. Several studies in rural Tanzania have identified an array of constantly evolving misconceptions associated with HIV transmission, condoms and antiretroviral therapy (ART) [7,8]. HIV education is further complicated by the pervasive stigma that surrounds infection in many African settings [9]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Village AIDS committees (VAC) were formed by the Tanzanian government in 2003 to provide HIV education to their communities. However, their potential has not been realised due to their limited knowledge and misconceptions surrounding HIV, which could be addressed through training of VAC members. In an attempt to increase HIV knowledge levels and address common misconceptions amongst the VACs, an HIV curriculum was delivered to members in rural north western Tanzania. An evaluation of HIV knowledge was conducted prior to and post-delivery of HIV training sessions, within members of three VACs in Kisesa ward. Quantitative surveys were used with several open-ended questions to identify local misconceptions and evaluate HIV knowledge levels. Short educational training sessions covering HIV transmission, prevention and treatment were conducted, with each VAC using quizzes, role-plays and participatory learning and action tools. Post-training surveys occurred up to seven days after the final training session. Before the training, "good" HIV knowledge was higher amongst men than women (p = 0.041), and among those with previous HIV education (p = 0.002). The trade-centre had a faster turn-over of VAC members, and proximity to the trade-centre was associated with a shorter time on the committee.Training improved HIV knowledge levels with more members achieving a "good" score in the post-training survey compared with the baseline survey (p = < 0.001). The training programme was popular, with 100% of participants requesting further HIV training in the future and 51.7% requesting training at three-monthly intervals. In this setting, a series of HIV training sessions for VACs demonstrated encouraging results, with increased HIV knowledge levels following short educational sessions. Further work is required to assess the success of VAC members in disseminating this HIV education to their communities, as well as up-scaling this pilot study to other regions in Tanzania with different misconceptions.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · BMC International Health and Human Rights
  • Source
    • "Moving to our second hypothesis, the belief in witchcraft- induced AIDS-like diseases is not exclusive to Kisesa [19,20] and the performance of rituals to exorcise malevolent spirits "disguised as a virus" has been documented in both rural and urban settings across Tanzania [15,22,31]. In the context of a deteriorating reputation of THs [31] and an outright ban on their activities, such rituals appear to be close substitutes for those traditionally offered by diviners. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The role of religious beliefs in the prevention of HIV and attitudes towards the infected has received considerable attention. However, little research has been conducted on Faith Leaders' (FLs) perceptions of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the developing world. This study investigated FLs' attitudes towards different HIV treatment options (traditional, medical and spiritual) available in a rural Tanzanian ward. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 FLs purposively selected to account for all the denominations present in the area. Data was organised into themes using the software package NVIVO-7. The field work guidelines were tailored as new topics emerged and additional codes progressively added to the coding frame. Traditional healers (THs) and FLs were often reported as antagonists but duality prevailed and many FLs simultaneously believed in traditional healing. Inter-denomination mobility was high and guided by pragmatism.Praying for the sick was a common practice and over one third of respondents said that prayer could cure HIV. Being HIV-positive was often seen as "a punishment from God" and a consequence of sin. As sinning could result from "the work of Satan", forgiveness was possible, and a "reconciliation with God" deemed as essential for a favourable remission of the disease. Several FLs believed that "evil spirits" inflicted through witchcraft could cause the disease and claimed that they could cast "demons" away.While prayers could potentially cure HIV "completely", ART use was generally not discouraged because God had "only a part to play". The perceived potential superiority of spiritual options could however lead some users to interrupt treatment. The roll-out of ART is taking place in a context in which the new drugs are competing with a diversity of existing options. As long as the complementarities of prayers and ART are not clearly and explicitly stated by FLs, spiritual options may be interpreted as a superior alternative and contribute to hampering adherence to ART. In contexts where ambivalent attitudes towards the new drugs prevail, enhancing FLs understanding of ART's strengths and pitfalls is an essential step to engage them as active partners in ART scale-up programs.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2010 · BMC Public Health
Show more