Global Health

September 23, 2016

Blood exposures for traditional healers

Traditional healers in sub-Saharan have a high rate of exposure to blood, putting them at risk for HIV and hepatitis C.


A majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa call on traditional healers for health care. To treat various complaints, these practitioners commonly use “injections” that involve cutting the skin with a razor and rubbing herbs into the bloody cuts.

To assess the frequency of blood exposures from this practice, Carolyn Audet, Ph.D., and colleagues surveyed a random sample of 236 traditional healers in Mozambique’s Zambézia province. Their study will appear in an upcoming issue of Tropical Medicine and International Health.

Seventy-five percent of healers had conducted razor “injections” in the past month, treating a median of four patients, using a new razor a median of three times and never using latex gloves. Blood exposures for healers who provided “injections” were estimated to be 1,758 over the course of a career.

Adult HIV prevalence in Mozambique is estimated to be 12.6 percent, and hepatitis C prevalence is estimated between 1.4 percent and 2.6 percent.

Joining Audet in the study were José Salato, Meridith Blevins, Wilson Silva, Lázaro González-Calvo, Sten Vermund and Felisbela Gaspar. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health (MH107255-02), the Tennessee Center for AIDS Research and the Vanderbilt Clinical & Translational Research Scholars Program.

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