by Work the World

Three decades ago, it was not known what caused AIDS, and millions of lives were affected. Coming up to the thirty year anniversary of the first diagnosis, there is an interesting article on The Slate about whether traditional medicine and modern science coexist when dealing with epidemics like AIDS and TB.

In 1983, before HIV really took hold in Tanzania, 11,750 people were diagnosed with TB, according to government statistics. Today there are 64,267 diagnosed cases. Together, HIV and TB kill around 91,000 people in Tanzania each year, according to UNAIDS and WHO statistics. In Tanzania, 30 percent of AIDS-related deaths are caused by TB, and some 20,000 TB patients are HIV-positive.

Focussing on the story of a Maasai woman, the article comments on the challenges of dealing with epidemics in a tribe, and even country, that prefers to see traditional healers until symptoms are so bad that they have to visit a hospital. It is something we talk about a lot on our blog, so it's fascinating to read other reports on it as well.

An interesting part of the article is the focus on one particular healer. A retired Lutheran minister, Babu has developed a following around the world. People travel for days to meet him and receive a cure for HIV. And this is not just the uneducated, Babu's visitors included government officials such as Tanzania's deputy minister for Water and Irrigation!

Over the last seven years, treatment has scaled up in Tanzania—in 2004, essentially no one was receiving anti-retroviral therapy, and today more than 270,000 people are taking the drugs. It is a challenge actually getting people to take the medication though when traditional healers claim to offer miracle cures. For those that do, there is a chance for a better life, as MSF's recent photography project shows. "My life with HIV" has 3 stories of Kenyan locals who have started receiving treatment and what it has meant to them.

Work the World offer student placements in HIV clinics in each of our Tanzanian destinations. For those who have had previous experience in HIV counseling, placements are also available in this area.


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