In Ghana, there has been an interest in the work of traditional healers since independence in 1956. Specifically, in 1962 the Ghanaian Government appointed a scientist to study the practice of traditional healers. This was done for several reasons:
(a) interest in re-awakening traditional institutions as a sign of independence;
(b) lack of financial and other resources to reach the hinterland; and
(c) the need to draw on the resources of all health practitioners in the treatment and prevention of infectious and other diseases.
Four types of traditional health practitioners were identified:
(a) traditional midwives;
(c) spiritualists; and
(d) faith healers.
In 1974, WHO came to the assistance of Ghana by providing funds to open the Centre for Scientific Study into Plant Medicine.
In 1990, the Ministry of Health of Ghana agreed to establish a unit for traditional medicine in the Ministry. The aim is to get traditional health practitioners to cooperate with primary health care programmes.
This will offer the Ministry the opportunity to have a dialogue with traditional healers and to seek their cooperation in the prevention and control of AIDS.
Traditional healers operate in rural and outlying areas. They have many clients; therefore, their cooperation is needed to get them to understand the mode of transmission of the AIDS virus in an attempt to control the spread of the disease.
The dangers of the illegitimate use of needles, not wearing protective garments in the delivery process, etc., must be made known to traditional health practitioners.
The modern medical practitioners and the Ministry of Health will also be able to learn from traditional approaches to preventing and controlling the spread of AIDS.