Global public health 2017 08 10() 1-13 doi 10.1080/17441692.2017.1359326
Relatively few empirical investigations of the intersection of HIV biomedical and traditional medicine have been undertaken. As part of preliminary work for a longitudinal study investigating health-seeking behaviours among newly diagnosed individuals living with HIV, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 urban South Africans presenting for HIV testing or newly enrolled in HIV care; here we explored participants’ views on African traditional medicine (TM) and biomedical HIV treatment. Notions of acceptance/non-acceptance were more nuanced than dichotomous, with participants expressing views ranging from favourable to reproachful, often referring to stories they had heard from others rather than drawing from personal experience. Respect for antiretrovirals and biomedicine was evident, but indigenous beliefs, particularly about the role of ancestors in healing, were common. Many endorsed the use of herbal remedies, which often were not considered TM. Given people’s diverse health-seeking practices, biomedical providers need to recognise the cultural importance of traditional health practices and routinely initiate respectful discussion of TM use with patients.