Trop Doct. 1997 ; 27 Suppl 1(): 60-6.
Umbanda healers as effective AIDS educators: case-control study in Brazilian urban slums (favelas).
Department of Social Medicine, University of Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
During a 12-month period (November 1994-October 1995), Afro-Brazilian Umbanda healers (Pais-de-Santo) taught 126 fellow healers from 51 Umbanda centres (terreiros) located in seven overcrowded slums (favelas) (population 104-343) in Brazil's northeast, the biomedical prevention of AIDS, including safe sex practices, avoidance of ritual blood behaviours and sterilization of cutting instruments. A face-to-face educational intervention by healers, marginalized in society yet respected by devotees, which blended traditional healing-its language, codes, symbols and images- and scientific medicine and addressed social injustices and discrimination was utilized in this project supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Health, National Program in STDs/AIDS. Significant increases (P < 0.001) in AIDS awareness, knowledge about risky HIV behaviour, information about correct condom use, and acceptance of lower-risk, alternative ritual blood practices and decreases (P < 0.001) in prejudicial attitudes related to HIV transmission were found among mobilized healers as compared to 100 untrained controls. Respected Afro-Brazilian Pais-de-Santo can be creative and effective partners in national HIV prevention programmes when they are equipped with biomedical information about AIDS.