Original Research

The African traditional religious landscape: An examination of the role of traditional leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Chipinge, Zimbabwe

Joel Marashe
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 35, No 1 | a871 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v35i1.871 | © 2014 Joel Marashe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 May 2013 | Published: 02 June 2014


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Abstract

This study examines the role of traditional leaders, as custodians of culture, in the fight against infection with the HI virus and the AIDS pandemic in the Chipinge District of Zimbabwe. The research aims to assess traditional leaders’ knowledge of HIV and AIDS and its causes. It also examines some traditional practices to determine whether they expose people to HIV and AIDS, and it evaluates the traditional leaders’ roles in curbing the pandemic. From a phenomenological standpoint – and grounded in the African traditional religious landscape – the study uses a survey research design. A convenient sample of 18 participants for the study consisted of 3 chiefs and 5 headmen who completed a questionnaire as well as 5 village heads and 5 elders who were interviewed and involved in four focus-group discussions (FGDs) that provided a variety of insightful information. The study identifies promiscuity as a major cause of HIV infection in communities. The results show that traditional leaders discourage barika and kuputsa as being harmful traditional marriage practices. Furthermore, the study indicates that traditional leaders encourage behavioural change amongst the youth and adults alike to curb the spread of HIV and that the pandemic could possibly be contained if government fully empowered the traditional leaders. The research has value in attempting to minimise the spread of HIV if communities discontinue harmful cultural practices. Therefore, donor agencies involved in intervention projects concerning the HIV and AIDS pandemic and government should work closely with traditional leaders who wield considerable power in areas under their jurisdiction to arrest the spread of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the Chipinge district in Zimbabwe.

Keywords

African Traditional Religion; AIDS; barika; Chipinge district; HIV; kuputsa; Shona culture; traditional leaders; traditional practices

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