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.