Featured Story from Kenya
Butula Traditional Healers Acquire a New Status

By Mary Makokha, Program Manager
Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Program (REEP)

Mwanaisha Narotso wears many masks. She is not only sells fruit and grains at the local market but she is also a well-known traditional birth attendant and a herbalist.

Like other herbalists, Mwanaisha deeply believes in her traditional cultural practices. Her work as a traditional birth attendant is revered in the community, but now carries associated risks because of the HIV virus.

WiRED's Community Health Information Centers have special programs for herbalists because some of the herbalists' traditions unknowingly contribute to the spread of HIV. The herbalists now visit the Center's medical e-library twice per week for ongoing training and to share information with herbalists in other communities. They now wear protective gloves when treating people and refer their clients to REEP's voluntary counseling and testing program.

The blending of traditional and new health care practices is best demonstrated by the abolishment of one long-held custom- birth attendants, including Mwanaisha, no longer deliver infants with their bare hands. Birth attendants now instruct women to carry rubber gloves and disinfectant during their last weeks of pregnancy, so when they are ready to give birth, the birth attendant will have what is necessary for a safe delivery.

In addition to learning about the causes and treatment of HIV and AIDS, the herbalists have increased their general knowledge about herbs and diseases. This has enabled them to effectively treat an increasing number of diseases and illnesses. The herbalists now incorporate safe hygiene practices into their treatments, limit the quantity of herbs they prescribe, and have requested purification machines and proper packaging for their herbs.
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