Chinsembu KC, Hedimbi M. An ethnobotanical survey of plants used to manage HIV/AIDS opportunistic infections in Katima Mulilo, Caprivi region, Namibia. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Sep 11;6:25.
[PubMed PMID: 20831821; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2944155.]
Noting that Katima Mulilo has the highest burden of HIV/AIDS in Namibia, and that many HIV-infected persons in the region use ethnomedicines to manage AIDS-related opportunistic infections, biologists from the University of Namibia surveyed plant species used by traditional healers to treat AIDS-related opportunistic infections.
They identified 71 plant species from 28 families, mostly the Combretaceae (a family of tropical trees and shrubs, 14%), Anacardiaceae (cashew or sumac family, 8%), Mimosaceae (a family of spiny woody plants, 8%), and Ebanaceae (persimmon or ebony family, 7%), used to treat conditions such as herpes zoster, diarrhea, coughing, malaria, meningitis, and tuberculosis.
The authors note that harmonization of the use of ethnomedicines with HIV/AIDS policy “remains a sensitive and contentious issue… because traditional medicines can easily become a scapegoat for denial and inertia to roll-out ART [antiretroviral therapy] as was the case during President Thabo Mbeki’s South Africa [and that] because in many resource-poor settings in Sub-Saharan Africa, government-sponsored ART programmes discourage the use of traditional medicines, fearing that the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs may be inhibited by traditional medicines … that their interactions could lead to toxicity [or that] reliance on traditional medicines can also lead to a discontinuation of ART therapy.”
“Thus many African governments including Namibia still have contradictory attitudes towards traditional medicines for AIDS, discouraging it within ART programmes, and supporting it within their initiatives of public health and primary health care. Despite this contradictory scenario, indigenous plants and mushrooms have been embraced as potential reservoirs that may contain a large repertoire of novel anti-HIV active compounds.”
The article contains a comprehensive list of plants used to treat HIV/AIDS-related disease conditions, including scientific name, common name, local name, parts used, disease conditions treated, and mode of application. Issues of intellectual property and ecological sustainability are discussed.
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