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living with HIV turn to herbal medicines
Jongwe, Mail & Guardian (SA)
August 26, 2005
After mocrea in the
1990s and the African potato five years ago, moringa powder is the latest
medical craze for Zimbabweans battling one of the world's highest HIV/Aids
"Do you want
to feel well, have a healthy appetite and live longer?" a pamphlet
on a supermarket noticeboard screams in bold print.
some moringa leaf, root, bark or powder," it says before cataloguing
the benefits from the concoction that is sprinkled over cooked food.
For many like Donance
Kangausaru, who tested positive for HIV/Aids in 1990, the cost of taking
anti-retrovirals is out of reach and he is not considered sick enough
to qualify for free drugs under the government's plan.
"After a friend
introduced me to moringa, I compared that with the price of drugs and
found it was cheaper," said Kangausaru (39) who has become a familiar
face in Zimbawe after he appeared in a series of television ad campaigns
encouraging "positive living".
"There are many
more people in similar circumstances and I would encourage them to take
herbs," said Kangausaru, who has been taking moringa for the past
He said the herbs
from the baobab-like moringa tree, which grows in Binga in northern Zimbabwe,
helped boost his immune system and fight off colds.
But the Zimbabwe Medical
Association (Zima) said the hype over moringa was unwarranted and that
there was no evidence to support that the herb helped reverse symptoms
of HIV infection.
"We don't want
a situation where an individual takes a certain type of food or herb and
their CD4 count improves and they go around trying to promote that food
or herb as an immune booster," said Zima president Billy Rigava.
take anti-retrovirals and where there is nothing, the tendency is to take
anything that might help," he said.
Fewer than 20 000
Zimbabweans out of an estimated 1,8-million living with HIV/Aids are receiving
free anti-retrovirals under the government's rollout programme.
The government has
pledged to scale up its ARV rollout to 100 000 by year-end as the latest
figures show that HIV/Aids-related illnesses are leading to 3 000 deaths
per week in Zimbabwe.
In the 1990s mocrea,
a Chinese herb, was "the wonder medicine" being touted everywhere
but when Zimbabweans kept dying from HIV/Aids, attention turned to the
African potato, a bulbous root that is boiled and then eaten.
Kangausaru who runs
the Yemurai Centre, a voluntary organisation helping people living with
HIV/Aids, is adamant that moringa works.
"I was not like
this, I had a skin rash and was susceptible to infection," he says.
"But I bet someone
can no longer tell by just looking at me that I am living with HIV."
Yemurai, which means
"admire" in the Shona language, runs a small herbal shop and
counselling centre inside a furniture store in downtown Harare catering
mainly to the urban poor.
Years of runaway inflation
in Zimbabwe have sent drug prices through the roof with the price of one
month's course of anti-retroviral drugs now costs about two million Zimbabwean
dollars (about $114) -- the equivalent of one month's salary.
cost for example if four members of the family are HIV-positive,"
Kangausaru said. - Sapa-AFP
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