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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Herbs help Africa's Aids fight
The herbs may boost patients' immune systems
Traditional African healers are helping to fight Aids in Tanzania.

The healers are dispensing herbal medicines to people already diagnosed with the disease.

The herbs boost patients' immune systems and appetites helping to fight them to fight off infections.


These local medicines are helping patients to gain weight and prolong their life

Levina Swai
They are also delivering safe-sex messages and distributing condoms to those who are free of the disease.

Officials working with an Aids group in the Tanzanian coastal town of Tanga say the traditional healers are making a difference.

Herbal medicine

Levina Swai, a clinical worker at the Tanga Aids Working Group, said: "We are seeing some patients who are getting better.

"That is because we are using the local medicine and herbs."

Healers obtain the herbs from grassland just outside Tanga. They are crushed and dispensed and, according to Ms Swai, are an alternative to Western anti-retroviral drugs.

"Western medicines are expensive and are not available but because these local medicines are helping patients to gain weight and prolong their life we are recommending them to our patients," she said.

Ms Swai added that the traditional healers are also helping to ensure young people are given information on safe sex.

"The old traditional healers are also given training on the importance of using condoms," she said.

Ms Swai helps to run a clinic in Tanga which provides counselling, treatment and health information to the general public.

The centre offers tests for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. It also plays videos which aim to get safe sex messages across.

"If you don't get enough information to the youth, they won't make the right decision," she said. "We are creating awareness."

The centre also provides family planning advice and information on other aspects of health, including the risks associated with smoking, drinking and taking drugs.

"We have many people attending our centre," says Ms Swai. "We are making a difference."

This story is featured in the radio programme Health Matters on the BBC World Service.

Click here for listening times

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Health
02 Jul 02 | Health
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