Why are we there?

  • Endemic/epidemic disease

Special Project

Born HIV-free
Preventing transmission of the virus from mother to child: a video story

Stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS from mothers to their children is an essential step in curbing the disease’s epidemic in Swaziland. Read more.

Our Work

This is an excerpt from MSF-USA's 2013 Annual Report:

With Swaziland facing dual HIV and TB epidemics, MSF is working with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to decentralize care for both, testing and treating patients at local health posts and promoting adherence to treatment. MSF is providing integrated TB-HIV treatment as well in places like Matsapha.

MSF also decentralized TB and DR-TB treatment to four health facilities in the Manzini region. Success rates improved to 75 percent and the first MDR-TB patients successfully completed their drug regimens.

Given research showing that ARV treatment for HIV also decreases transmission, MSF and the MOH are implementing a program in Shiselweni that will test and treat all pregnant women in the district, putting those who test positive for HIV on ARV treatment straightaway.

MSF also reached out to traditional healers to discuss HIV and TB care and enlist their help in referring people with symptoms to clinics.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 307 staff in Swaziland. MSF has been working in the country since 2007

Patient story

Albert Zondo is a traditional healer from Mnyatsi, a village in Shiselweni.

“I started healing in 1963, using traditional herbs through the guidance of my ancestors. I can cure illnesses that I recognize; if a patient tells me what is wrong with them, I also look at the symptoms that they present before I give them treatment. If I don’t understand the illness, I do not hesitate to refer them to Western medical facilities.

As traditional healers we sometimes consult each other when confronted with complicated medical cases. So I consider referring patients to Western medical facilities to be the same as consulting or referring to other traditional healers. For me the main objective is ensuring that the patient recovers. I am not too concerned about how.

I cannot diagnose HIV or TB, but I am aware of the symptoms. So when a patient presents any of the vital symptoms I connect them to the local MSF expert client, Busi Gumbi, who then links the patients with a clinic, where they are treated.

I met Busi in 2004, before she joined MSF. She was already doing some community health motivation, raising awareness about HIV. At that time, I got very sick and tried different traditional medication but nothing seemed to work. She would check on me and encourage me to test for HIV and try western medication. After resisting for a long time, I eventually agreed and my daughter took me to Mankayane hospital, where I was diagnosed with HIV and initiated on ARVs.

Before I started the treatment I got vigorous counseling. My counselor, a very passionate young man, told me how to take my medication and strongly advised me never to mix my medication with traditional medication. Initially I though he was misleading me. How could I, a traditional healer, turn my back against my own medication? This felt like disloyalty to who I was and my beliefs. But I took the treatment as instructed and I soon saw the improvement in my health. I have never defaulted on my medication since.

I do not hesitate to tell people that ARVs are the best treatment for HIV. I openly share my story to prove this. ARVs have worked for me and I would like to help other people so I will not keep them on treatment that will not help them when I know that there is some more effective medication that they can get for free. That would be wrong. My fellow traditional healers have never questioned what I do.”

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