Ngakas do more harm in fight against Aids

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I AM a concerned Mosotho woman who is neither a health specialist nor a health practitioner.

I therefore invite opinions, comments and constructive criticism on the critical issue that I seek to raise in this article.

It has come to my attention that there has been an increase in the number of herbalists or traditional healers who now freely use the title “Doctor”.

I would like to know if it is legally acceptable for these individuals to assume the title.

My assumption is that this title is only assumed when one completes years of medical training at a registered medical school.

If this practise is illegal who is responsible for regulating it and what action has been taken to clamp it down?

I think this title can be misleading to ordinary Basotho who might not be able to differentiate between a herbalist/traditional healer and a medical doctor, who all share the title “Doctor”.

The confusion may stem from the fact that in ordinary spoken Sesotho the two “doctors” are all called Lingaka.

Secondly, it is my understanding that medical doctors do take an oath under which they agree not to advertise their businesses.

I am worried that we seem to have traditional “doctors” advertising their services on radio, television and in newspapers.

What is the role of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in this regard?

Thirdly, it is again my profound understanding that the Ministry of Health through the Department of  Public Health is working jointly with our herbalists and traditional healers in controlling diseases like TB and HIV and Aids.

The herbalist/healers’ radio slots content are most disturbing when they are allowed to claim that they heal most diseases and medical conditions, including HIV and Aids.

As a result of these programmes we have a number of patients who go to health clinics to check their status and CD4 counts and thereafter stop their ARV treatment programme.

These individuals resort to these herbs and concoctions that are advertised on radio stations.

We then have some patients making confusing and misleading public testimonies, claiming the products have worked for them. I would like to know if the Ministry of Health test these concoctions to check if they meet acceptable standards.

We know that medical doctors discourage the use of herbs once one is under ARV treatment.

Can it be clear to us as to when one can use the herbs, and why medical doctors discourage the use of herbs?

I have  observed cases where patients default from ARV treatment and start using products which are said to boost the immune system and when their health starts to deteriorate, they are now referred to the health centres where they meet certain death.

This is tarnishing the image of our medical doctors and health centres as people seem to conclude that they are incompetent.

What is the health ministry doing about this issue?

I am concerned that most rural community members tend to believe these products and due to the testimonies people tend to prefer using the so-called immune boosters than adhering to a strict ARV treatment programme.

I wonder if we shall win this fight against HIV as Basotho.

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