The Sierra Leone Chapter of GESTU, an international Non Governmental Organisation which promotes the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa through the help of Traditional Healers has been launched at the conference hall of the National Council for Tech/Voc and Other Awards, Tower Hill, Freetown.
Jointly Organised by GESTU International in Senegal and the Sierra Leone Traditional Healers Association, the programme which follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Senegal by ten West African Countries, including Sierra Leone aims to enhance the activities of information, education and social mobilisation against HIV/AIDS as well as develop and strengthen collaboration between traditional healers and those involved in conventional medicine. Giving an overview of the organisation’s charter, the Focal Point of Traditional Medicine in the Ministry of Health, Alhaji Babara Turay said the new process would reinforce and boost the national and sub regional response to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Alhaji Turay described the charter as an orientation tool that makes people better understand the prevention strategies, screening methods and complementarities between the traditional medicine and the modern medicine in fighting against HIV/AIDS.
Dilating on the charter’s objectives and principles, Alhaji Turay expressed the need to fight against stigmatisation and discrimination linked to HIV/AIDS, annihilate harmful actions of some traditional healers, and promote respect for basic rights and dignity, partnership and management of confidentiality among others.
He called on all registered traditional healers to embrace the initiative and help promote it objectives while warning all against methods of contracting the disease A representative of Gestu International, Arnold Abdul Aziz said his organization had involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Senegal since 1996. He pointed out that with funds from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA, his organisation has implemented several capacity building programmes for Senegalese Traditional Healers to enable them fully participate in the fight against HIV/AIDS and harmonize their intervention with the national HIV/AIDS prevention conventions.
He said the charter was developed to ensure that its objectives and principles are spread in all African countries and entreated Africans to view it as a link between traditional and modern medicines. Chairman of the occasion, Dr. A .T. Fadlu Deen who also launched the chapter, underscored the role traditional healers are playing in the development of the country’s health system, described the process as a long awaited initiative that would help change the focus of traditional healers
.He informed his audience that the Sierra Leone Traditional Healers Association has gone through hard times, adding that the policy and code of ethics for the organisation have been developed and called for unity among them.
Statements were also heard from representative from people living with HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone and traditional healers from various parts of the country.