Faith Medicine in Tanzania

Hi again,

I’ve been having an amazing time in Tanzania. I’ve met my homestay family and settled into my new home – the village of Sangaiwe in the Mwada district of Northern Tanzania. Over the next six weeks, I will be working with two other American volunteers and two Tanzanian partners to conduct a village-wide AHIV/AIDS awareness campaign. This involves teaching at the schools, meeting local organizations and community leaders, and spreading information about HIV transmission and prevention techniques. All of this work will culminate in a village-wide testing day, where we will try to have the whole village come out to get tested and take the steps to stay healthy and empower their community. After we leave, our work will be continued by peer educators that we will train as well as community health workers who will provide support and aid for those living with HIV in Sangaiwe. In the last week, we taught the primary school children about the basics of health and HIV transmission. We had such a great time working with the kids – they really are incredible. They’ve been so receptive and interested in learning, and it’s a privilege to be able to work with them.
On another note, I have been continuing my research with the Mwada district. We have conducted household surveys to understand the information and misinformation this population has about HIV and its transmission, as well as important questions about the role of religion and stigma in the community. We are compiling the results now, but I’m excited to see the trends that emerge in our communities. I have decided to focus my reserach on a prominent emerging faith healer in Tanzania whose presence has proved an immense challenge for several NGOs in the area. Babu, which means grandfather in Swahili, claims to cure HIV by prescribing a certain special drink – the kikombe. Hundreds of HIV positive Tanzanians have abandoned traditional ARV treatment in favor of this healer, and it has caused a significant amount of worry among health workers in the area. I will conducting interviews with villagers to better understand this phenomenon and the reasons for Babu’s rise in popularity, as well as travelling to Loliondo, the place of Babu’s healing, to interview his supporters in an attempt to find a means of addressing the issue within my own village and the larger Mwada district.

I sincerely thank the Africa Fund at USC for helping me to fund this research project!

Until next time,