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Collaborating with traditional healers for HIV Prevention and care in sub-Saharan Africa: suggestions for programme managers and field workers

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Geveva, UNAIDS, 2006

These guidelines aim to empower health authorities, governmental and nongovernmental organizations as well as community groups seeking to develop a productive relationship between traditional and conventional (that is modern or biomedical) health systems. The guidelines were conceived to help envision, plan, design, implement, evaluate and scale up initiatives that involve collaborating with traditional healers for HIV prevention and care in sub-Saharan Africa. The ultimate goal of this effort is to improve access to, and quality of, health services for the clients of both systems. Previous research and documents have identified initiatives that involved traditional healers in Africa and have described case studies and outlined their successes and failures (UNAIDS 2000, 2002). This present guide illustrates by means of clearly defined steps how successful collaborative projects have worked, and how lessons that have been learnt can be used to initiate new collaborations or expand existing ones. More specifically, this document aims to: 1) identify the critical determinants of success and failure of documented collaborative initiatives; 2) define a model strategy that can be adapted to reach out to traditional healers, and set up or scale up collaborations with the traditional health sector in sub-Saharan Africa; and 3) document key necessary steps to build trust among traditional healers and biomedical health practitioners, impart critical information, and learn from, support and empower each other, as well as to monitor the collaboration and to evaluate successes and failures.