Nomzingisi and Sam are reaching out to the local sangomas (traditional healers) for their help in getting HIV/AIDS awareness out into the community.  According to Wikipedia, about 60% of South Africans consult traditional healers.  For many remote villages sangomas are the sole providers of holistic treatment where modern “western medicine” is virtually nonexistent with the nearest clinic or hospital a half-day journey away.  Many South Africans have strong beliefs in the power of evil spirits and associate physical illness or bad luck with being “bewitched” by those who wish them ill fortune.  These ailments can present themselves in physical forms such as headaches or stepping on a sharp rock, to emotional and spiritual problems such as having a child struggle in school or a relative not being promoted at her job.  Using traditional herbs and medicines, divination and fortune-telling, sangomas are able to cure people with these afflictions and protect them from spiritual attacks.  By being recognized as important spiritual and physical healers for the community, sangomas hold a unique position as health liaisons to the local population and will play a crucial role in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness in the community.

Both Nomzingisi and Sam were nervous about meeting with the local sangoma.  There have been many instances of traditional healers holding firmly to their beliefs and flat-out refusing to accept modern medicine over traditional remedies, and many times this can lead to villagers quitting their treatment causing them to get sick and even die.  It was soon apparent that this sangoma was much more open-minded.  She explained when she first became aware of the presence of HIV in her village she got herself tested and started recommending her patients get tested as well.  She understands that clinics and hospitals can provide better treatments than what she can offer from her home in the village.

“I know that ARVs are very important. The people in our village that have HIV are much healthier and live longer if they are taking ARVs, this is obvious.”

She is eager to help the BI improve the health education in Nqileni by actively participating in the monthly health days and attending health workshops hosted by Nomzingisi and Sam so she can pass the information on to her patients.  Nomzingisi and Sam are excited to reach out to the rest of the sangomas in the area and form meaningful partnerships and work together to improve the well-being of Xhora Mouth.