TheAfrican culture is rich in traditional practices and heritage whichsafeguards the African spirit of communal living. For decades, thisculture has shaped how African communities relate and interact withone another despite language barriers, differing religious beliefsand practices as well as system of government. Historically, Africancommunities were established and formed based on chiefdoms, monarchsand kingdoms ruled by dictators and kings who governed theirrespective people with an iron fist in other words, there was nodemocracy in this culture. The culture was based on cultural valuessuch as community life, good human relations, sense of sacredness,hospitality, religious spirituality, respect for authority andlanguage. These cultural values helped in the foundation of the muchappreciated African culture which has helped African nations intoday’s society establish nations as well as mark territorialboundaries. However, Africa is crippled with health related issuesespecially the HIV epidemic which has claimed millions of Africanlives since the mid-eighties.
Africantraditional medicine is the primary and most often used healthcareoption for the vast majority of people living in sub-Saharan Africa.This medicine has been used for centuries even before the onset ofthe European exploration in the 18thcentury. Herbal and spiritual traditional practitioners alleviatedthe ills and sickness of millions of Africans believed to be causedby chronic diseases, infection, traumas and psychological illnesses.During the colonial period, traditional medicine proved to beeffective, dynamic and adaptive as a healthcare system because itimproved the well-being of communities. However, as these chronicdiseases continued to evolve becoming resistant to traditionalmedicine, the African population began to diminish as most perishedand died due to these diseases. Traditional healers and herbalistsbecame irrelevant as their medicines did not improve the standard ofhealthcare among African communities. However, the introduction ofantiseptics, surgical techniques, synthetic pharmaceuticals anddiagnostic capability improved the health condition of most Africans.Unfortunately, these medical services and products were only accessedby the minority while the majority of Africans continued to languishat the mercy of traditional medicine. The fight against HIV began inthe 1980s when the first cases of this illness were reported in SouthAfrica. This led to the mobilization of Governments, InternationalAgencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to sensitize theAfrican public of the effects of HIV in the short and long term.However, the infection spread across the continent like wildfire aspeople were not accustomed to using protection during sexualintercourse. The African culture believed in polygamous marriageswhereby a man would marry as many wives as possible as long as hewould provide for all households. Hence, if one of the ladies wasinfected with HIV, this would spread throughout the entire householdwithin a span of one week. Furthermore, the African culture wasingrained in the minds of people so much that they believed HIV was acurse from God and there was no need for conventional medicine butrather prayers and sacrifices (Ambasa-Shisanya,2009).
Thisculture affected the reasonable thinking abilities of more thanthree-quarters of the African population because all forms ofcommunity life were founded on the same culture. Basically, theAfrican culture prevented most Africans to change their mental andrealistic outlook of life from traditional medical practices to themodern approach of healthcare services. In addition, cultureinfluenced the lifestyle and behaviors of all African people. Forinstance, the chiefs were expected to marry a young girl every yearas a sign of the community’s prosperity and as an expression ofappreciating the beauty of marriage unions. Therefore, due to thesecultural practices the rate of HIV infections still persists becauseof the primitive practices enforced upon the people by the culture(Umeh,1997).It is believed that once a couple was infected, the wife wasprohibited from asking her husband if he infected her with the virusbecause it was considered a sign of disrespect and humiliation.Hence, HIV became a ‘silent killer’ among the African people asit slowly killed millions of people because no one knew the cause ofthe illness. Due to the statistical figures of the rate of HIVinfections among Africans, I think it would be best to implement aprevention program for this particular culture. The African culturedictated that fathers would teach their sons about manhood whilemothers would teach their daughters about womanhood in equal measure.In other words, the African setup was based solely on apprenticeshipan informal education program that sensitized young African childrenon their responsibilities once they became adults. Lack of formaleducation in the African culture is the reason why HIV still persistsin Africa. This culture prohibited the speculation or awareness ofcertain communal issues. For instance, traditional healers were notallowed to disclose any information about the cause of illnesses anddiseases that consumed the lives of their tribesmen without theapproval of the chief or communal leader. This approach was used toensure that the people fully submitted to the authority of theirchiefs without question(Shumaker,Ockene & Riekert, 2009).
Inthis prevention plan, I intend to use civilization as a strategicfacet to combat and mitigate the rate of HIV infections in Africa.For centuries, Africa has remained oblivious of the modern way oflife whereby men and women are equal within any societal construct.Enforcing the aspect of civilization will broaden their perception ofwomen, men and children as well as healthcare services. Civilizationwill help create a platform with the African leaders and chiefs whereI can rationally reason with them by comparing the African andwestern culture. This will provide a comparison analysis between thetwo cultures forcing the African leaders to embrace foreign culturalpractices when it comes to medicine and healthcare prevention. Forinstance, during the colonial era, European explorers in Africacontracted tropical diseases like malaria which forced them to createmedical vaccines for these illnesses eventually providing the vaccineto the locals. Showcasing the western culture focusing on healthcarewould allow African governments understand the advancements andimprovements made in medical services and treatment plans through theuse of modern technology. In order for my prevention plan to work inthe African culture, I would have to showcase the statistical figuresof HIV infected Americans and Europeans before the use ofconventional medicine and afterwards so that they can understand thepositive effects and outcomes of using such medication (Pequegnat& Bell, 2012).For this to be successful I would have to target the prominentleaders within the targeted African community. For instance, in SouthAfrica, I would advocate this idea to theZuluking because of his powerful influence on his people. However, I doknow that it would be difficult to fully convince the leaders ofembracing western medication, the use of two participants HIVinfected male and uninfected female to have sexual intercourse whileusing protection and later the woman be tested for HIV. Actualizingthe effectiveness of this medication would be proof enough thattraditional African medicine is obsolete and the African cultureshould embrace western healthcare (Shumaker,Ockene & Riekert, 2009).
Overthe years, there have been other HIV prevention programs supervisedby humanitarian groups from Europe and North America but withoutsuccess. However, my prevention program would be successful because Iwould employ local volunteers to help with spreading the HIVawareness campaign by offering HIV medication toolkits andprescriptions for free within a 6 month period(Pequegnat& Bell, 2012).Unfortunately,since the African culture is founded on diversity language barrieris an obstacle that I will have to face because very few Africancommunities are able to communicate in English. Plus, Africansocieties respond positively to foreigners who understand their locallanguage.
Ambasa-Shisanya,C. R. (2009). Culturaldeterminants of adoption of HIV/AIDS prevention measures, andstrategies among girls, and women in western Kenya.Addis Ababa: Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern andSouthern Africa.
Pequegnat,W., & Bell, C. C. (2012). Familyand HIV/AIDS: Cultural and contextual issues in prevention andtreatment.New York, NY: SpringerShumaker,S. A., Ockene, J. K., & Riekert, K. A. (2009). Thehandbook of health behavior change.New York: Springer Pub. Co.Umeh,D. C. (1997). Confrontingthe AIDS epidemic: Cross-cultural perspectives on HIV – AIDS education.Trenton, New Jersey.: Africa World Press.