Alternative medicines for AIDS in resource-poor settings: Insights from exploratory anthropological studies in Asia and Africa
1 Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2 Centre de Recherche Cultures, Santé, Sociétés (CReCSS), Université Paul Cézanne d'Aix-Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, France
3 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Unité Mixte de Recherche (UMR) 145, Montpellier, France
4 UMR 7043 Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)-Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg, France
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2008, 4:16 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-4-16Published: 10 July 2008
The emergence of alternative medicines for AIDS in Asia and Africa was discussed at a satellite symposium and the parallel session on alternative and traditional treatments of the AIDSImpact meeting, held in Marseille, in July 2007. These medicines are heterogeneous, both in their presentation and in their geographic and cultural origin. The sessions focused on the role of these medications in selected resource poor settings in Africa and Asia now that access to anti-retroviral therapy is increasing. The aims of the sessions were to (1) identify the actors involved in the diffusion of these alternative medicines for HIV/AIDS, (2) explore uses and forms, and the way these medicines are given legitimacy, (3) reflect on underlying processes of globalisation and cultural differentiation, and (4) define priority questions for future research in this area. This article presents the insights generated at the meeting, illustrated with some findings from the case studies (Uganda, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, China and Indonesia) that were presented. These case studies reveal the wide range of actors who are involved in the marketing and supply of alternative medicines. Regulatory mechanisms are weak. The efficacy claims of alternative medicines often reinforce a biomedical paradigm for HIV/AIDS, and fit with a healthy living ideology promoted by AIDS care programs and support groups. The AIDSImpact session concluded that more interdisciplinary research is needed on the experience of people living with HIV/AIDS with these alternative medicines, and on the ways in which these products interact (or not) with anti-retroviral therapy at pharmacological as well as psychosocial levels.