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International AIDS Conference: Tradition Healers Appeal for Role in Treating Disease

Aired July 12, 2000 - 2:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It was not scientists, but Africa's traditional healers who took the spotlight today at the World AIDS Conference. They say their drums and chants have a role to play in treating the disease.

CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault has their claims and modern medicine's reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traditional leaders on the march for acceptance. With their herbs, roots, leaves, and other natural things, traditional healers are consulted by up to 90 percent of Africans, turning to them now because of AIDS, a key point made during this workshop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody in his right sense of mind goes to a modern hospital if he has HIV/AIDS except he wants to die.

HUNTER-GAULT: But one medical doctor argued that traditional healers are also killing people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been giving medicines which damage the kidneys and die a very bad death.

HUNTER-GAULT (on camera): It is here, in and around these hills, that traditional healers live and work among the people.

(voice-over): Those who are HIV positive, those who see traditional healers as their only hope. They line up from sun up to sun down, where 64-year-old Yanda Indobani (ph) sells for about $3 muti (ph), a concoction made of herbs, which he says heals AIDS victims.

He collaborates with the virology lab at the Natal Medical School, where he sends saliva samples for HIV testing.

The collaboration allows for more scientific exploration, a check on practices that could be harmful, and it gives Indobani a bridge to the scientific community.

PROF. ALAN SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF NATAL: I think science should, and I think government should make use of these people whenever possible, both in education and the application of treatment.

HUNTER-GAULT: Professor Smith says he has seen some of Indobani's patients get better, though he needs more scientific evidence.

This women, collecting muti for four people, doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This medicine is very good for the people.

HUNTER-GAULT: The healers agree, and are fighting to get official government recognition.

MERCY NOBESUTHU-MANCI, TRADITIONAL HEALER: English write on the paper that this is to amend, this is all that. We recognize the traditional healers.

HUNTER-GAULT: Traditional healers are being utilized by the South African government, but as for official recognition:

DR. NONO SIMELELA, S. AFRICA HIV/AIDS PROGRAM: Many methods are different. How they claim to cure is different. What they use to cure is different. So how do you start to regulate such -- It's difficult.

HUNTER-GAULT: But Indobani says he's been helped by government in recognizing how HIV/AIDS started, in taking precautions, and in realizing the seriousness of the disease as a Holocaust. And he, for one, is hoping for greater collaboration between his way and modern science to help in the scourge that is on his doorstep.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN, Umlazi, South Africa.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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