B5. Expansion of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) Program: The role of traditional healers and medicinal plants in Malawi
K.K. Nyirenda1 and J.D. Kalenga Saka21 Basic Sciences Department, Bunda College of Agriculture, Chancellor College,
The role of traditional medicine in health care delivery in Malawi is well known, and the contribution of natural-based products to orthodox medicines cannot be overlooked. Recognizing this critical role, interviews were conducted in Mulanje, Mwanza and Mangochi to identify the most commonly used plants and preparations for management of various diseases. In addition to interviews, literature review formed an integral component of the study. A total of 237 herbalists were interviewed and 87 medicinal plants with mode of administration were recorded. Forty-nine herbalists (20.7%) indicated that they incorporated pulverized mushrooms of species Ganoderma lucidum and, Lentinula edodes in the recipes used to treat venereal diseases, rheumatism, shingles, diabetes and general body pains. In Asia, extracts from ganoderma lucidum have been used for improvement of immune functions and increase the white blood cell count in patients. Additionally, animal studies have shown that methanol extracts of Lentinula edodes significantly activate the immune system, stimulate hematogenesis and also demonstrated anti-diabetic characteristics. The indigenous knowledge and scientific evidence seem to suggest that mushroom species in the study sites have potential to improve immunodeficiency of the human body and increase resistance to diseases. In Malawi unauthenticated claims of cure for HIV/AIDS by herbalists are not uncommon. With the current programme of availing free antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Malawi, there are reports of some patient dropout from the scheme after being convinced by herbalist’s treatment. Such practices would frustrate government’s efforts to effectively implement the HAART programme since discontinuity in taking these drugs has potential risks of population developing resistance to the approved ARVs. This paper, therefore, calls for greater involvement of the traditional healers by equipping them with basic knowledge about disease transmission, prevention and care for HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, herbalists should be trained on the basics of antiretroviral therapy and the need for adherence to the prescribed regimens. Uganda, which is ranked one of the best countries in Africa in adherence to anti-TB drugs and ARVs, has largely attributed its success to effective participation of traditional healers in provision of information on HIV/AIDS management.