Staying Alive – HIV/AIDS, Covid-19 and traditional and alternative health beliefs and practices in Manicaland 

Staff: Nadine Beckmann (Roehampton), Clarissa Surek-Clark (The Ohio State University), Exnevia Gomo (University of Harare), Onias Ndoro (Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care), Constance Nyamukapa (Imperial College London), Simon Gregson (Imperial College London), Clara Calvert (LSHTM) 

This project investigates how people in eastern Zimbabwe use biomedical and alternative medical approaches in an effort to stay alive during pandemic times.  

The underlying research question we will address is what impact people’s non-biomedical health beliefs and use of non-biomedical medicines have on the uptake, adherence to and effectiveness of mainstream HIV prevention and treatment services. The project will be the first step in addressing this question. We will first conduct ethnographic research in a rural and a semi-urban site in Manicaland to identify current practices and beliefs around the nature, treatment and prevention of illness and misfortune, the terminologies used for different symptoms of adversity, and the range of available practitioners in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, with a particular focus on addressing health issues related to COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS. On the basis of the findings from this study, we will identify problems in the framing of questions on traditional medicine in the current Manicaland Centre’s population-based, open cohort survey on the dynamics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and understand survey participants’ perceptions of the survey process and their reasons for not reporting non-biomedical health beliefs, in order to develop and test new methods to measure more accurately the use of non-biomedical approaches to treatment and prevention through large-scale quantitative studies.