Malawi: Home herb clinic helps many live with HIV (by Norman Fulatira, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

| November 28, 2011

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John Chaoneka tested positive for HIV in 2010. He thought it was the end of his life. Little did he know that herbs could help him stay healthy. His life has since changed for the better.

Mr. Chaoneka comes from the Zomba district of Malawi. At 37, he is married with two children. Mr. Chaoneka says he felt dejected when he received his diagnosis. But he discovered an NGO called Development Aid from People to People, or DAPP. DAPP helped him learn the power of herbs.  He says, “After counselling from DAPP, I joined a group of 20 farmers to [learn about] HIV/AIDS, especially what to do to increase immunity using herbs when your CD4 count is low.” The CD4 count is an indicator of a person’s immune health. A low count may mean a person’s immune system is weak.

Mr. Chaoneka built on the little knowledge he had about herbal medicine. With training from DAPP, he became a full scale herbalist. He is now known as Doctor C in his community. With the help of his wife, he opened a makeshift herbal clinic which he operates from his house.

Mr. Chaoneka advises people living with HIV not to despair but to find ways of staying healthy, such as using herbs. He says many farmers in his area are benefitting from his herbs. “I assist over 600 HIV-positive people from around my area with different HIV and AIDS-related ailments such as loss of appetite, sore throat, dizziness, low blood levels, and headaches.”

One of the medicines he prepares is called Power Drink. To make one litre of Power Drink, Mr. Chaoneka mixes one bulb of crushed garlic with the juice of three lemons, three teaspoons of honey, and a sizeable piece of crushed ginger. Water is added. According to Mr. Chaoneka, this drink boosts immunity, reduces a sore throat, and improves digestion.

Mr. Chaoneka grows many herbs in his backyard garden. He says, “Currently some of the herbs I grow in my garden include aloe vera, garlic, hibiscus, and lemongrass.” He also grows vegetables for his family to eat. Mr. Chaoneka sources other herbs from other people’s gardens, or from the bushes around Zomba forest. Mr. Chaoneka’s strategy this year is to reduce the cost of making medicines. He intends to grow more plants and scale up his herb garden. He says, “I want to … get more herbs from within reach and save on time that I spend travelling in search for the herbs.”