Original Research

Decolonising the mindsets, attitudes and practices of the allopathic and indigenous health practitioners in postcolonial society: An exploratory approach in the management of patients

Simon M. Nemutandani, Stephen J. Hendricks, Mavis F. Mulaudzi
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 10, No 1 | a1518 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v10i1.1518 | © 2018 Simon M. Nemutandani, Stephen J. Hendricks, Mavis F. Mulaudzi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 May 2017 | Published: 28 May 2018

About the author(s)

Simon M. Nemutandani, School of Oral Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Stephen J. Hendricks, Albertina Sisulu Executive Leadership Programme in Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Mavis F. Mulaudzi, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The indigenous health care system continues in the postcolonial era to be perceived by antagonists as a threat to Western medicine. It has been associated with ‘witchcraft’, actively discouraged and repressed through official government prohibition laws. Despite that, human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
(HIV and AIDS) patients consult both allopathic and indigenous health practitioners.

Aim: The study explored a collaboration model between allopathic and traditional health practitioners in the management of patients living with HIV and AIDS in postcolonial South Africa.

Setting: We conducted six combined focus group discussions and four separate group discussions with each category of co-researchers.

Methods: Combined and separate focus group discussions were conducted with community members, allopathic and indigenous health practitioners, applying the cyclical method in the decolonisation process. Their perceptions and experiences in the management of HIV and AIDS patients were explored, and finally decolonisation strategies suitable for collaboration in their context were identified.

Results: The two health systems were rendering services to the same HIV and AIDS communities.Lack of communication created confusion. Collaboration was long overdue. A change in mindsets, attitudes and practices among practitioners was critical, with an acknowledgement
that ‘neither health system is better than the other, but the two should be complementary, recognising that the culture and beliefs of patients influence their health-seeking behaviour’.

Conclusion: Co-researchers were committed to working together in the fight against HIV and AIDS infections. Their model for collaboration addresses the challenges of patients’ secrecy, treatment overdose and the abandonment of antiretroviral treatment. Through the application of a decolonisation process, their mindsets, attitudes and practices towards each other were changed, enabling the joint development of a custom model for collaboration between allopathic health practitioners and indigenous health practitioners in the management of patients living with HIV and AIDS.


decolonization of mind; indigenous health system; allopathic health system; collaboration model; HIV/AIDS management


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Crossref Citations

1. Proverbial Knee of Western Medicine Choking Indigenous Health System in Africa: We Cannot Breathe
Mbulaheni S. Nemutandani, Wezile Chitha, Stephen J.H. Hendricks, Mavis F. Mulaudzi
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