Traditional healers, HIV/AIDS and company programmes in South Africa

  • David Dickinson Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, PO Box 98, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa


This paper explores the organisational structures of traditional healers, outlines their explanations of HIV/AIDS, and discusses how they can be integrated with company programmes. The South African Traditional Health Practitioners Act seeks to register, regulate and promote traditional healers, but its ability to do this depends on strong, formalised associations of traditional healers. The different forms of traditional healer groupings in South Africa are described along with the implications that their organisational structure has for knowledge, competition and service standards. Traditional healers' diverse and fluid beliefs about HIV and AIDS are explained together with ways in which cooperation between companies, allopathic medicine and African traditional healing practices could be promoted in workplace responses to HIV/AIDS. It is suggested that such collaboration should focus on ‘windows of compatibility' rather than on overall agreement. Moreover, it is argued that any response to HIV/AIDS must be embedded within a wider set of agreements, the most critical being a genuine process of referral between the traditional and allopathic healthcare systems. Companies are in a strong position to initiate such reforms, and this would support the professionalisation of traditional healers as well as help coordinate a wider and more effective response to the HIV epidemic in South Africa.

Keywords: cultural beliefs; health services; indigenous practitioners; integrated services; professional associations; traditional practices

African Journal of AIDS Research 2008, 7(3): 281–291

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445