Dr. Noelle A. Benzekri, acting assistant professor, is the lead author for the Open Access article published March 15, 2019 in the journal, BMC Infectious Diseases. The authors note this is "the first study to report an association between seeking care from a traditional healer and presentation with [World Health Organization] (WHO) defined advanced [HIV] disease in sub-Saharan Africa."
More studies are needed to better understand the roles and influence that traditional healers have on individual and community health given the widespread use in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to the association between advanced HIV disease and seeking care from traditional healers, researchers found that WHO guidelines were not consistently implemented when persons with advanced HIV disease sought care to initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The authors highlight that, “Although the majority of individuals in this study presented with advanced disease and warranted management according to WHO guidelines, there were numerous missed opportunities to prevent HIV-associated morbidity and mortality. Programmatic evaluation is needed to identify barriers to implementation of the WHO guidelines and enhanced funding for operational research is indicated.”
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus, an RNA virus that uses reverse transcriptase to convert its RNA into DNA. The virus then integrates its viral DNA into the host DNA. HIV targets CD4 T cells, which are an important part of the adaptive immune response. Left untreated, HIV destroys infected CD4 cells to the point that there are not enough healthy CD4 cells in the host to effectively fight off other pathogens or cancers, often refered to as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
When diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, HIV is treated as a lifelong chronic health condition and those infected can continue to lead healthy and productive lives. Used effectively, ART reduces viral load to extremely low levels and allows healthy CD4 cells to maintain effective levels.
Benzekri NA, Sambou JF, Ndong S, Tamba IT, Faye D, Diallo MB, Diatta JP, Faye K, Sall I, Sall F, Manga NM, Malomar JJ, Ndour CT, Hawes SE, Seydi M, Gottlieb GS. 2019. Prevalence, predictors, and management of advanced HIV disease among individuals initiating ART in Senegal, West Africa. BMC Infectious Diseases 19:261. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-019-3826-5