The Influence of Traditional Healing Practices on Treatment Adherence in Limpopo Province South Africa

Significance of the Study

South Africa continues to experience high mortality rates due to HIV/AIDS and there has been an upsurge in scaling prevention, care and treatment programmes to combat the disease. Among the host of solutions that have been advanced to reduce HIV and AIDs are the preferences for alternative and complementary treatments encompassing the use of faith healing, traditional healing and other herbal treatments. In a context of inadequate human resources for health, this study will investigate the influence of traditional healing as a skill base which could be utilized to assist in the scaling up of treatment adherence services in South Africa.  Rural communities have always been caught between adopting the western approach of treatment and the traditional treatments. A number of factors influence such preferences including the cost involved, the issue of stigmatization, provision of counseling services, the religious and African traditional belief systems and levels of awareness. Conflicting reports have been made regarding the impact of alternative and complementary treatment of those infected from the scientific perspective. The practice is strong among rural communities and its study may point towards improving the management of the disease in rural settings.

The study will have practical and theoretical importance to the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), the Department of Health, the local authorities; the general public and those affected by HIV and AIDS particularly the traditionally religious people. It broadens the search for solutions to the treatment and cure of the disease and to gather knowledge on why individuals continue to believe that traditional and spiritual practices can cure the disease that has decimated communities the globe over. The study could be a precursor towards the integration of modern and traditional treatment regimen. It is the first step towards removing stigmatization of the infected, affected and those that claim to have the skills to cure. The study intends to explore the contextual and cultural influence of traditional healing practices. From a policy perspective, the study would contribute towards generating scientific information that will feed into policy improvement and change. Most of the HIV and AIDS initiatives fail because the lowest groups of society are not consulted on topical issues like their preferences for alternative treatments. This will thus constitute a consultative forum for the SANAC. Traditional practices are usually shrouded in myths and taboos that are at times difficult to understand due to the closed nature of rural communities. Studies of this native are capable of unraveling the underlining drivers for the preferences for traditional treatments.

Preliminary Findings

Literature indicated that non-adherence to treatment is more prevalent in communities which are economically disadvantaged. Treatment adherence in people living with HIV requires support from medical institutions, community based organizations, friends and family members for its conquest. Customary religion and practices plays a pivotal role on treatment adherence.

Project History

As a Sociologist my focus is on the science of societysocial institutions, and social relationships specifically, the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings. This project evolved from a master’s thesis on Oral Narratives of Selected Female Migrants in South Africa: Case study of Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province South Africa’ into understanding how treatment adherence and traditional healing play a role in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.



The study will be located in Limpopo Province. The study will be conducted in five districts , in the Limpopo province of South Africa.  The sampling frame will be drawn from individuals who are traditional healers in five Districts namely Vhembe, Mopani, Capricorn, Waterberg and Sekhukhune.