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By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
LEARN HOW AMERICA IS USING CAM

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics released the most complete and reliable findings to date on Americans' use of CAM in May 2004. This study explores how many Americans are using CAM and what therapies they are using for various health problems and concerns. Read about this new study in the Summer 2004 issue of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH," available at nccam.nih.gov/news/newsletter.
By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016

Foot soldiers in AIDS fight; African hospices ease pain, chip away at stigma Donors begin to realize value of palliative care
The Toronto Star
Sun 18 Jul 2004
Page: F2
Section: Business
Byline: Reed Lindsay
Source: Special to the Star
The white pickup truck rattles to a halt at a round mud and thatch hut cemented with cow dung.

Princess Cele, a stout woman wearing sunglasses, a dark blue beret and a mint green uniform adorned with epaulets, motions her head to a mound of dirt outside the hut.

"She's dead," says Cele, who is making her daily rounds as a nurse for South Coast Hospice.

A young woman confirms that indeed her 34-year-old cousin died three days ago. A baby now sleeps on the thin, worn mattress where the cousin spent her final days.

In these winter months, when the temperature drops at night and the wind blows dust over the steep, grassy hills that rise above the sugarcane plantations and beach resorts of South Africa's Indian Ocean coastline, the death toll mounts.

Pneumonia and tuberculosis often deal the final blow, but only after HIV/AIDS has ravaged the body's immune system.

Ten minutes' drive away, down a rutted dirt road that cuts through Elim's expanse of ridge-top huts, Cele visits a second patient.

Sizakele Ntuli, a gaunt woman with large eyes and a beatific face, grimaces in pain as she struggles to sit up in bed in her small, dimly lit room. Her throat burns from oral thrush and her body aches. She has lost nearly all feeling in her feet and cannot stand on her own.

Ntuli says she felt fine two weeks ago, but the disease appears to be advancing rapidly.

"The numbness in the feet shows that her immune system is going down," says Cele, sighing deeply. "Until now, she's been up and moving about. But today, I can see that she's sick. It looks like she's getting worse."

Cele massages Ntuli's feet with a topical analgesic and replenishes her supply of vitamins, painkillers and antibiotics.

Like most people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, Ntuli cannot afford antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which could prolong her life and keep her healthy. Without the ARVs, Cele limits herself to mitigating Ntuli's pain and making her feel more comfortable as her body wastes away.

According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 2.3 million people died from HIV/AIDS last year in sub-Saharan Africa - many of them malnourished, under-medicated and in unremitting pain.

In South Africa, more than 400,000 infected people are likely to die this year.

But increasingly, people with HIV/AIDS are suffering less and facing their deaths with a degree of dignity, helped by a burgeoning network of grassroots hospices and community caregivers operating with threadbare resources and little or no government support.

While some experts argue that the only long-term solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the prevention of future infections or the discovery of a vaccine, health-care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa's poor rural areas and slums are trying to answer the more starkly immediate question of what to do about the dying.

"With 7,000 people a day dying from AIDS in Africa, and under horrible circumstances for most people, it's an intolerable holocaust," says Peter Sarver, of the New York-based Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa. "There is a critical mass of people who decided to face this head on."

In sub-Saharan Africa - where UNAIDS says 28.5 million people (or 71 per cent of the world's total) are living with HIV/AIDS - most hospitals have neither the resources nor the expertise to care for dying AIDS patients. Hospices and the volunteers with whom they work are often the only source of support for those who are dying.

In the last decade, dozens of hospices have formed to provide what is called palliative care - helping people cope with pain and with the trauma of facing death.

Nowhere has the hospice movement been stronger than in South Africa, where an estimated 5.3 million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002, more people than in any other nation in the world.

Ten years of democracy in South Africa have resulted in little economic improvement in places like Elim, where there is no industry and only meagre subsistence farming. Just as they did under apartheid, many men leave their families to work odd jobs in cities or as migrant labourers.

The prevalence of migrant labour combined with crushing poverty has created ripe conditions for spreading HIV/AIDS.

At South Coast Hospice, Cele and three other nurses look after some 800 patients, twice as many as the hospice cared for three years ago. As patients succumb to the disease - on average they last eight months under the hospice's care before they die - they are quickly replaced by an ever-growing number of new ones.

South Coast is based in KwaZulu-Natal province, considered the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

A 2002 survey of antenatal clinics in KwaZulu-Natal showed 36.5 per cent of pregnant women to be HIV-positive, the highest of any South African province.

In order to handle its growing caseload with a limited staff, South Coast has teamed with family members and volunteers who often provide day-to-day care for the sick in their homes with guidance from a hospice nurse.

Like most hospices in sub-Saharan Africa, South Coast has only a handful of back-up beds, so it concentrates on visiting patients in their homes. Most patients live far from the hospice and the nearest hospital, and cannot afford the bus fare or are too weak to travel.

Many decide to die at home, in order to be close to loved ones and in familiar settings, or because the family cannot afford to transport the corpse back home for burial.

Thousands more in the area are in need of the hospice's services, but they do not seek help due to denial or fear. Those who contact the hospice usually do so only in the later stages of the illness, after their pain has become unbearable.

"There are so many out there, but they don't want to see the hospice truck coming to their homes because everybody knows it is associated with HIV/AIDS," says Thandi, a resident of Elim who began volunteering at South Coast and now is paid a small salary to work full-time as a caregiver and assistant to Cele.

HIV/AIDS continues to carry a potent stigma in Africa, where strict taboos on talking about sexual promiscuity and death are common, and those living with the condition are often ostracized.

Thandi tested HIV-positive last year. She is in good health and is taking ARVs, which the hospice provides gratis for those HIV-positive employees willing to declare their status.

Thandi says she was infected by her husband, who returned home from his job at a mine near Johannesburg when he became sick three years ago.

He had refused to be tested, and it was not until last month that he admitted that he had known his status years ago, but had said nothing, fearing his wife would abandon him.

She has not told her patients that she is HIV-positive. Nor has she told her two sons, ages 20 and 17, although she says she often speaks to them about HIV/AIDS and the importance of abstinence or safe sex.

Little by little, hospices like South Coast have begun chipping away at the stigma, organizing support groups and using palliative care as a beachhead to initiate broader discussions about HIV/AIDS and sex.

"Almost 100 per cent of our patients have divulged their status, and that means breaking the silence, and reducing the stigma and bringing HIV into the open," says Kath Defilippi, CEO of the South Coast Hospice.

"Palliative care is very strongly linked with prevention of HIV .... We have a number of young people who almost on their death bed will tell their friends, their peers, to stop this risky lifestyle, saying 'I'm here because I slept around.' This can be much more powerful than any media campaign."

Until recently, donations to palliative care have been sporadic at best, as money from abroad has instead gravitated toward prevention campaigns, the search for a vaccine or helping AIDS orphans.

"Donors have only just begun realizing that palliative care is an absolutely crucial element in the fight against HIV/AIDS," says Mary Callaway, associate director for the Open Society Institute's International Palliative Care Initiative, which began funding hospices in South Africa in 2002.

"They also are realizing that a little money goes a long way. Palliative care is cheap and these hospices are already out there caring for people largely through volunteer work and on shoestring budgets."

 

By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Traditional medicine knowledge slipping away
CanWest News Service
Wed 23 Jun 2004
Byline: Matt Goerzen
Source: CanWest News Service; Saskatoon StarPhoenix


SASKATOON - Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are working with two First Nations communities to bring their traditional medicine into mainstream cardiovascular health practices before the knowledge is lost forever.

``Aboriginal medicine has been highly overlooked,'' said Dr. Rui Wang, head researcher for the Cardiovascular Research Group.

Elders and healers from Lac La Ronge Band and the English River First Nation will work closely with the group to identify traditional herbs. Those with this specialized knowledge are dwindling, said Wang.

``Mostly they're gone,'' agreed Henry Beaudry, an elder from North Battleford, about the people who used to make the remedies. ``It's a special kind to take, you have to remember what colour, what kind (and) what way. It's a good idea to research all these things for young people.''

The research group, formed in January, brings together 23 experts from the university's departments of medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and nutrition.

They were inspired by the high mortality rate from diabetes and hypertension in aboriginal communities, Wang explained.

The group will use scanners to identify the active physical components of 26 herbs at a molecular level. They can then synthesize the medicinal components and determine the most effective delivery methods.

Intellectual property rights will be shared with First Nations peoples and they want native scientists to join their team, he said.

``We are hoping someday Canada will have the speciality to train people to practise aboriginal herbal medicine,'' Wang said, noting that similar research in China has resulted in specialized hospitals and universities.

The researchers have identified 39 other bands for future work and eventually want to research how aboriginal medicine can benefit fields other than cardiovascular health.
By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
A woman's touch
The Spectator  
Tue 21 Oct 2003  
Page: G10  
Section: Journal  
Byline: Jeremy Laurance  
Source: The Independent, London  


Allowing men into the delivery room has been one of the great social transformations of our time. Four out of five births are now attended   by the baby's father but nobody has thought to ask whether their presence is helpful to the women.  

Now, mothers are discovering the secret of a good birth is having another woman present.  

The loss of female support in childbirth and its replacement by men could lie behind the soaring caesarean rate, which has doubled in 20 years.  

A review of 15 research trials involving almost 13,000 women published in the Cochrane Library, the biggest source of evidence-based health care in the world, has demonstrated a female supporter is the best guarantee of a natural birth.  

Mothers who had continuous support throughout labour from a woman trained to give that support needed less pain relief, had fewer "operative" births -- caesareans or forceps deliveries -- and had a more positive experience than those who received the normal attention of an often overworked midwife.  

Professor Elaine Hodnett, of the University of Toronto, who carried out the review, said the presence of a trained supporter who was not employed by the hospital and whose only loyalty was to the woman in her care was a "very powerful" element.  

"My bottom line is that women need and deserve close and continuous support in labour in an environment that is supportive. Many midwives will tell you they don't have the time to provide that, " Hodnett said.  

"The key is the relationship the caregiver has to the woman. The evidence showed if continuous support was provided by a nurse or midwife it was less effective."  

The idea is hardly new. Until 50 years ago, women typically gave birth supported by other women throughout their labour, and had done so since the dawn of time.  

A mother, sister or neighbour would provide comfort and advice to assist the labouring woman through one of the most emotionally and physically demanding experiences of her life.  

But from the middle of the 20th century, as doctors assumed control of childbirth and it moved from home to hospital, the tradition of providing continuous support to women in labour was lost. Birth became technology driven.  

In place of the soothing presence of mother, sister or neighbour came the fetal monitor (to check the baby's heartbeat) with its blinking lights and nervy alarms.  

The dehumanization of birth in the past half century has provoked one of the biggest protest movements in medicine.  

Women have sought to wrest control back from the doctors and ensure labour and childbirth follow a natural trajectory rather than one determined by technical requirements.  

But it has been a losing battle. The rate of interventions in childbirth -- involving induction of labour, anesthesia, forceps delivery, or caesarean -- has risen inexorably.  

In Great Britain, figures published by the Department of Health in May showed that "normal" childbirth --without any intervention -- has for the first time become a minority activity.  

Fewer than half of all new mothers -- 45 per cent -- now have a spontaneous labour and delivery. (Despite the World Health Organization's assertion that C-sections should account for no more than 15 per cent of births worldwide, in some major Canadian centres, the rate has soared to 30 per cent of births, or almost one in three babies.)  

The trend has not curbed the demand for natural childbirth and now women are learning that hiring a female supporter may be the most effective way of obtaining it.  

The idea of providing expectant mothers with a woman trained to support seemed to begin in the United States.  

The female supporters are called "doulas" -- from the Greek for "servant" -- and it is estimated there are 40,000 doulas assisting women in the United States and Canada to challenge the technological tyranny of the medical birth.  

In Europe, there are only a few doulas practising today, but demand is rising.  

Doulas are not medically qualified but they have training ranging from a few days to nine months, depending on their previous experience.  

Importantly, they are hired by the woman, not the hospital, to support her through labour, provide encouragement and praise as well as coping techniques and to represent the mother's wishes to medical staff.  

They bring the voice of experience to a situation which, for new mothers in particular, may seem frightening or threatening. And, rather than threatening the role of husbands and partners, they may turn out to support them, too.  

Anecdotal evidence suggests men welcome the presence of someone with experience who relieves them of responsibility, eases their anxiety and helps them play their part in the birth experience.  

Doulas charge from about $600 Cdn to attend a birth which may last from a few hours to more than once round the clock.  

Almost 30 doulas are working in the Hamilton area and they charge up to $600 -- but they may charge nothing at all.  

Burlington doula Michelle Marion said the profession's code of ethics stresses that every woman who wants a doula should have one, despite her social or economic status. "Some doulas volunteer."  

Marion said there is a growing interest in doulas, largely because women know they can't count on their own doctor being present for their child's birth and nurses change with each shift.  

"A doula will stay with you throughout the labour," she said. "You meet her probably three months before the due date, if not earlier; you get to build a relationship and that person is guaranteed to stay by your side -- through shift changes and everything else."  

At the final visit, most doulas present the mother and her partner with a birth story which consists of pictures and a written account of the birth as a memento, Marion said.  

Mary Newburn, the policy director at Britain's National Childbirth Trust, said the Cochrane Review was "an absolute gem" and its findings "very important." (For more information, go to www.canadiandoula.com. )  

She said: "It shows very clearly that one of the most effective things you can do to improve outcomes is provide women with continuous support during labour.  

"It is extraordinarily effective in reducing caesareans, the need for pain relief and even how mothers relate to their babies after birth. It is one of the few interventions with hard evidence to show its benefit."  

That view was backed by obstetricians who carried out a study at a hospital in the south of England in which 20 women were filmed throughout the course of their pregnancies and labours to record how many staff attended them and what they did.  

The number of staff who cared for the women ranged from three to 11 and the midwives were seen to be spending more time filling in forms than sitting with mothers and talking to them.  

The study, led by Keith Greene, consultant gynecologist and director of perinatal research at the hospital, concluded the demands on midwives to provide technically exemplary care, record it meticulously and give emotional support all at the same time were incompatible.  

Loss of confidence in the care that is provided by current methods may have contributed to the rise in caesareans, it said.  

The researchers ended with an appeal for greater recognition for the doula, whose role in promoting a good birth seems to now be beyond doubt.  


By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Laughing the pain away
Being mentally ill is the only prerequisite for taking the Comedy Courage course, which teaches people how to be standup comics. Who says the talking cure is dead? ALEXANDRA GILL asks
The Globe and Mail
By ALEXANDRA GILL
Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - Page R1


VANCOUVER -- Imran Ali suffers from schizophrenia.

"That's a problem," the standup comedian cracks, "because I used to enjoy it."

Ali also has gender dysphoria. "That's when you like to dress in women's clothes," he explains, smoothing down a flowing auburn wig as the rest of the class eggs him on.

"Having schizophrenia and gender dysphoria is great," he continues. "If I don't like the dress I have on, I can just hallucinate a new one."

If you thought most standup comedians were nuts, welcome to Comedy Courage -- a course where some sort of mental-health issue is a mandatory requirement. And that's no joke.

"This is the best form of therapy I've ever had," says Darcy James Goral, one of the two co-founders of this free 12-week course, sponsored by the Burnaby Mental Wealth Society, which culminates with a fundraising showcase tonight at the Sandman Hotel in downtown Vancouver.

Two years ago, Goral was in the midst of a breakdown. "I was angry, depressed, my mind was out in left field," explains the graphic art designer, who still takes medication for post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition triggered when he was sexually assaulted.

One day, a friend invited Goral to The Lighter Side of Mental Health, a standup show at Peace Arch Hospital featuring David Granirer, a local comedian and counsellor. When Goral arrived, Granirer presented him with a button that read "I'm OK but you need professional help!" (the title of Granirer's forthcoming book). The next day, Goral signed up for Granirer's standup comedy clinic at Langara College.

"The clinic was never intended to be therapeutic," explains Granirer, who first discovered his knack for delivering comedy while teaching training sessions for volunteers at the Vancouver Crisis Centre. But after teaching the college course for eight years, he couldn't help noticing how making fun of their problems had helped many students overcome long-standing depressions and phobias. One woman who was deathly afraid of flying, he explains, hopped on a plane for the first time after the course was finished.

"She said if she could do standup comedy, she could do anything," Granirer explains. "There's something incredibly healing about telling a roomful of people exactly who you are and having them cheer."

Goral says the $300 clinic, which taught him how to write and deliver his own standup routine, certainly worked for him. "Being able to tell my story through comedy knocked out the shame I'd been carrying around for 10 years."

It also gave him the courage to approach the board of the Burnaby Mental Wealth Society with an idea that many thought was, well, a little crazy.

"I wanted to make the course available to other people who couldn't afford it, but might benefit from it," Goral says. This year's inaugural course was completely funded by corporate sponsorship, which Goral solicited. Tonight's showcase and auction is intended to raise money for next year's course.

The program is not meant to be a substitute for therapy or medication, Granirer stresses. But for some people, like the 14 extroverts in this class, it can boost confidence and self-esteem.

"It's kind of like a supercharged support group," says Granirer, who himself is diagnosed with depression. "But unlike AA or other AA-type groups, where you're expected to listen in respectful silence, everyone here is expected to laugh out loud.

"The idea is that by laughing at our setbacks, we rise above them. It makes people go from despair to hope, and hope is crucial to anyone struggling with adversity."

Back in the basement of West Burnaby United Church, where the class is in their final dress rehearsal, the only thing "Wacky Jacky" Johnston is struggling with is an uncontrolled case of hysterics.

When Ali starts sashaying around to a warbly rendition of Tip Toe Through the Psych Ward, his fellow classmate can't stop shrieking with laughter.

"Oh, what has my life come to," she cries, banging her feet on the floor. "All of a sudden I'm beginning to relate to you, Imran. You're really funny today."

Granirer shoots her a look of amused concern. "Wow, it looks like someone isn't taking their meds today."

"I'm self-medicating," Johnston explains, still laughing her head off.

"Okay," says Granirer. "But next time you decide to go off your medication, try not to do it the day before the gala."

For the next hour, each class member gets up and presents their four-minute monologue. Some are funnier than others. Some stumble with their lines. Some express nervousness about the upcoming showcase. No one seems overly concerned about flopping.

Some might consider it kind of risky to have schizophrenics get up on stage to joke about the voices in their heads. Granirer, however, says such biased preconceptions about mental-health patients as fragile wallflowers is just one of the myths the program is trying to address.

"There is a belief that people with mental illnesses are not capable of functioning in society, or holding down jobs or living a full life or getting up on stage to do comedy. People think 'Oh, my God. They're so vulnerable. If they fail, they might commit suicide.' The truth is, these people have survived all sorts of abuse and neglect. They're incredible survivors. And they choose to do this. Not a lot of people out there are capable of doing standup comedy. If they have a tough night, they'll be able to handle it."

Indeed, Roseanne Gervais, a self-described control freak, says she doesn't want to get rid of her butterflies. "I just want them to fly in formation," she jokes.

This self-proclaimed "queen-sized queer" says Comedy Courage has given her a voice and helped her find a punch line to her problems.

"I've made more progress in the last six months than I did in 16 years," says Gervais, who jokes about lesbianism, the trials of Prozac and the controlling mother in her act.

"I've found a way to talk to my family about these issues. Before it was impossible, they just brushed it off. Now, they listen because it's a joke, but they still hear the message."

Prozac and the psych ward

Norm Conrad: My doctor told me I could never take Prozac as I might go off and kill someone. Is that really what I'd do if I cheered up?

Ron McIntyre: I've run into a few of my old counsellors and therapists in different places. That's why I'm not allowed to drive any more.

Phyllis Parsons: My family doesn't understand mental illness. They don't understand why it can't be cured by alcohol.

Branwen Willow: I was in the psych ward a while ago. They keep the doors locked. People think it's so the patients can't get out. Actually, it's to keep the staff in.

David Granirer: When I was single, my therapist said that to build my self-esteem, I should be my own date. So I tried it. I made myself pay for everything, wouldn't return my phone calls, and then decided I only liked me as a friend.

David Granirer: When my psychiatrist told me to go on anti-depressants, I said, "No, they'll change my personality." She said, "David, isn't that the whole point?"

John Johnston: Before I was a mental-health consumer, I served in the army reserve. I've had lots of experience with insanity.

John Johnston: When I left the psych ward, I thought my self-esteem was as low as it could go. Then I got a job at 7-Eleven.

For more information about Comedy Courage: http://www.comedycourage.com

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By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Acupuncture used as anesthetic in Mac surgery; Woman feeling 'great' after procedure done without benefit of drugs
The Spectator  
Wed 05 May 2004  
Page: A5  
Section: Local  
Byline: Meredith Macleod  
Source: The Hamilton Spectator  


Kate Daley just doesn't trust anesthetics so when she learned she needed surgery on her uterus, she opted to try acupuncture.  

She was told by doctors she was crazy. Even acupuncturists couldn't believe she'd risk painful surgery using the treatment.  

But the last time she had a spinal anesthetic, it took months to recover from the lethargy. She blames her mother's profound depression and loss of motor skills and memory on general anesthetics. She said she will take no more chances on the drugs.  

"Our body has its own chemicals to be stimulated to deal with pain in a natural way. Why deal with your body trying to get rid of chemicals for weeks?"  

But the Toronto woman could find no acupuncturists there with hospital privileges and no doctor who would agree to perform a D & C (dilatation and curettage) on a patient without anesthetic. The procedure removes the lining of the uterus -- typically to control heavy menstrual periods or to empty a uterus after a miscarriage. It can be quite painful.  

But Daley, who hadn't had any experience with acupuncture, was determined. She eventually tracked down a program at McMaster that teaches acupuncture to doctors, chiropractors, nurses and physiotherapists.  

Dr. Angelica Fargas-Babjak, an anesthesiologist and acupuncture specialist, agreed to help Daley. Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caroline Sibley at McMaster agreed to do the procedure as long as Daley allowed an IV in her hand in case drugs were needed.  

"I'm not going to do surgery on someone who is in agony," said Sibley. "Acupuncture is definitely for the committed. Those who think 'I believe this is going to help me. It's going to work.' It's definitely not for everyone."  

That was 14 months ago. Yesterday, Daley underwent the procedure for a second time with acupuncture, and Sibley also scoped her uterus for polyps and to rule out cancer.  

It was only the third time that surgery has been performed with acupuncture at McMaster. The first time was gall bladder surgery on another Toronto woman who had previous bad reactions to anesthetic.  

Daley's procedure took less than 10 minutes, but setting up the acupuncture needles took more than twice that.  

"Most people think of the long needles as very painful but it isn't," Daley said, minutes before the insertion of needles began. "It's like a pinprick. It's not being stabbed."  

When Daley had the D&C 14 months ago, she said she felt "distant" during the procedure. There was no pain but she felt sensation and heard voices. She said recovery was immediate.  

Yesterday, Daley appeared groggy and relaxed as she was wheeled into the procedure room. Fargas-Babjak and protege Dr. Meena Nandagopal had spent about 20 minutes inserting 24 needles along Daley's spine, in her scalp and ears and into her stomach. They are up to several inches long and are very fine and flexible. They leave no skin or tissue damage behind because they are solid steel.  

Once the needles are in place, the doctors attach small electrodes like those on car battery cables which conduct a very mild electric current.  

Daley said it felt as if someone was fluttering their fingers along her back or that water was rolling along her skin.  

Fargas-Babjak says acupuncture is very useful in treating pain, anxiety and a whole host of complaints such as insomnia, arthritis and indigestion. She said it's also essential to maintaining overall health. Acupuncture is growing as an alternative treatment in Western medicine. The McMaster acupuncture program began in 1998 and now has about 300 graduates around the world.  

It's about changing how the body perceives and reacts to pain, she said. "It's about releasing what is already there and knowing which switches to press and which to release."  

OHIP doesn't cover acupuncture.  

"We should be using acupuncture much more," said Fargas-Babjak. "Our bodies are always trying to maintain balance. Headaches, high blood pressure, ulcers and insomnia are signs our bodies are out of balance. Acupuncture restores that balance in the body."  

During the procedure, Daley's heart rate remained steady at about 70 beats a minute and her blood pressure changed only slightly. She displayed little reaction as Sibley worked.  

"I feel great," Daley said minutes after the procedure. "More people just need to open their minds to the fact that drugs aren't always the way to go."  
By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Does prayer heal the sick?; One in three Americans say prayer is responsible for curing their illnesses. Now, doctors are studying whether prayer might be useful as a treatment.
The Spectator  
Sat 10 Apr 2004  
Page: F11  
Section: Focus  
Byline: Bob Ivry  
Source: Knight Ridder  


Something was wrong with Lorice Greer's unborn baby.  

She was devastated. But she knew what to do. She prayed.  

"Oh, please, God, don't let it be so."  

Lorice prayed with her husband Wayne. They linked hands. They shut their eyes. "Please, Lord, please."  

Lorice and Wayne prayed with Wayne's mother Lorlene. They prayed with their pastor. They prayed with the entire congregation of the Greater Faith of the Abundance Church in Paterson, N.J., everyone joining hands and calling on God to heal the unborn son of Lorice and Wayne Greer.  

Can prayer heal? Ask Lorice Greer and she'll flip through her Bible to John 14:14: "If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do."  

In a time when medicine offers ever more awe-inspiring remedies, 30 per cent of Americans say prayer is responsible for healing their illnesses, a Gallup Poll says. Eight in 10 believe God works miracles. In one study, three- quarters of breast cancer patients reported asking God to help rid them of it.  

Does prayer work? It's so effective that doctors who don't use it may be guilty of malpractice, says Dr. Larry Dossey, author of Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine.  

In fact, medical schools now teach students to treat "whole" patients, their bodies and their souls.  

Research has shown that prayer can relieve stress and stress-related ailments. The act of praying -- of Catholics saying the rosary, Jews rocking in fervent prayer, Buddhists breathing "om" -- can reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate and bestow a feeling of well-being, even the most skeptical scientists agree.  

But results of other studies are more controversial, particularly those concerning whether praying for someone else can heal.  

The possible link between faith and healing has so intrigued U.S. health officials that they're spending millions to study the effect of healing touch on newborns and whether praying for breast cancer survivors can prevent a recurrence.  

"We should all be looking for the truth, whether we're believers or not," says Dr. Gary Posner, a Tampa, Fla., scientist who doubts prayer has any healing power. "If it does work, nonbelievers like me will become believers."  

Randall Lassiter, Lorice and Wayne Greer's pastor, says he's seen with his own eyes God's power to heal.  

Every Sunday, Lassiter's Greater Faith Church of the Abundance meets in a room at the YMCA in downtown Paterson. "For we walk by faith, not by sight," reads a velvet banner hanging over the pulpit.  

After singers have praised Jesus, Lassiter, dressed in a purple robe, invites congregants to the altar.  

Lassiter lays hands on his flock but he says God heals them.  

"Even after I became a minister, I was a doubting Thomas about the laying on of hands," Lassiter says. "Then I experienced it myself about 10 years ago.  

"The pastor put his hand on me and I felt so peaceful. I felt a tingle. I fell down. I don't remember going down and I don't know how long I was down. But I do know I felt the power of God."  

Lorlene Greer believes. As music plays on a recent Sunday morning, Lorlene - - Lorice Greer's mother-in-law -- makes her way to the altar along with a dozen others. Minister Carolyn Stokes takes the microphone from Lassiter to beseech God.  

"Break the angry yoke," Stokes cries out. "We welcome you, Holy Spirit."  

Lassiter moves forward into a sea of congregants with his arms stretched out in front, as if feeling his way in the darkness -- "by faith, not by sight."  

Lorlene Greer closes her eyes, raises her hands, and screams, "Hallelujah."  

Lassiter places his hands on a man's forehead and the man jerks back. He places his hands on another forehead, and another, both hands now bringing down the power to heal.  

"We will walk in the spirit. We will walk in the spirit. We're going to walk. With our God."  

Lorlene Greer shrieks. Ushers -- all women dressed in white -- link arms around her, to protect her in case she falls. Lorlene cries "Hallelujah" and leans back, back, back, palms up, arms outstretched, face toward heaven.  

"Obedience!" shouts Minister Stokes. "Obedience! Obedience!"  

Swaying in the crowd swarming around Lassiter is Lorice Greer. Her eyes are closed. Dozing in her arms is her son, Josiah.  

Doctors had said Josiah would have Down's syndrome. But he was born, 14 months ago, perfect.  

A perfect baby boy.  

Skeptics say talk of medical miracles is snake oil. In a case like that of baby Josiah Greer, they would say it's likely the doctor made an incorrect diagnosis. They point out the many people who are prayed over but die, and the many people who make spectacular recoveries without the benefit of prayer.  

Since 1989, Posner, a physician who founded a group of scientists called the Tampa Bay Skeptics, has kept a $1,000 cheque in his wallet to give to anyone who demonstrates a verifiable faith healing.  

"What we'd like to see is, one time, just one time, if someone had a broken arm -- a broken arm, you could see on a fluoroscope, an unmistakably broken bone -- and then the arm is prayed over and, say, within an hour, take another fluoroscope and, without any medical intervention, the bone is healed. There would have to be only one instance of that for me to believe it," he says.  

Some effects of faith, however, can be measured by scientists. Researchers have documented that the laying on of hands can help heal ailments caused by stress, says Dr. Herbert Benson, president of the Harvard Mind/ Body Medical Institute and author of The Relaxation Response.  

Healing touch triggers the release of nitric oxide into the bloodstream, he says. Nitric oxide counteracts fight-or-flight hormones, which cause stress and can lead to depression, insomnia, menstrual pain, stroke and other problems.  

The immediate effects: decreased blood pressure, slower heart rate and calmer breathing.  

The question is whether the hand of God is actually intervening or whether patients get better because, as in the placebo effect, they simply believe that touch will cure them.  

"It doesn't matter," Benson says. Belief, he says, makes the healing possible.  

It wasn't that long ago that a scientist risked career suicide by putting God under the microscope. Now, the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health is spending $6.2 million over two years on prayer-health links.  

While scientists debate intercessory prayer, believers continue to form "prayer chains" on behalf of sick strangers. Lists of the ailing are read in houses of worship and frequently are posted on the Web.  

Every day, Rivka Lewin and other members of Chevra Tehillim, a Jewish group based in Teaneck, pray for the ill by reciting tehillim, or psalms.  

To Lewin, healing miracles happen all the time.  

There's the young man in Bergen County who she says was roused out of a coma by prayer. There's Lewin's father, with a leg injury so painful that "to sit down or stand up, he would scream." After reciting tehillim, his leg improved so fast "the doctor himself said it was a miracle," she says.  

"God answers the prayers of people who pray for others before he answers prayers of people who pray for themselves," says Rabbi Menachem Kaplan of the Wayne Chabad Center. He says that belief originated with Genesis 25:21: "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived."  

Lorice Greer knows. No doctors or nursescould help her unborn son. Her prayers and the prayers of her pastor healed her child -- and they healed her.  
By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
What doulas do and don't do: Birth-support workers make experience more positive
The Kingston Whig-Standard  
Tue 06 Apr 2004  
Page: 21  
Section: Health  
Byline: Karen Gram  
Source: CanWest News Service  


VANCOUVER - Judith Law holds her baby girl Acacia away from her body so they can look into each other's eyes while Law coos at her.  

"Hello little worm," she says, using the nickname her seven-week-old daughter earned for all her wiggling in the womb. "Is it time to eat?"  

She sits on the couch and Acacia easily latches on to her breast. Law continues to coo encouragingly.  

This quiet domesticity is a far cry from the in-control businesswoman Law was not that long ago, travelling the globe, eating in restaurants and playing squash. Law continues to be amazed at her own ability to switch gears and spend all day with a baby.  

"I thought I would throw myself off the balcony after three weeks," she says with a laugh, pointing to the ground-floor patio outside. "But now I have separation anxiety."  

It's thanks in part to her doula, or birth-support worker, that Law feels so confident now. As a first-time mother, Law and her husband, Neil Philcox, wanted a friendly, experienced face at their labour.  

"I had the overwhelming sense of not knowing how to prepare for labour or breastfeeding," says Law, recalling that the labour was long and very painful and the doula knew what to do to make her as comfortable as possible.  

"Spouses need coaching too," she says. "Especially for emotional support and how to physically support me."  

In an effort to make the birth experience more positive and less medical, western medicine has moved to allow husbands - then husbands and other family, then anyone the mother wants - into the delivery room.  

Midwives have become standard and delivery rooms have become almost extinct. Now we have birthing rooms painted pink or yellow. There is art on the walls, dimmer switches and birthing chairs and balls rather than just a bed.  

But doulas are the latest big trend in childbirth. Unlike midwives, doulas do not deliver babies. In fact, they don't do anything clinical. They don't read the fetal heart monitor, or recommend medical therapies, or take blood pressure. Nor do they challenge the medical staff on treatments. All of this makes them much more welcome by doctors at a birth than midwives were when they first came on the scene.  

Doulas make eye contact, protect dignity, relieve anxiety and relieve pain using non-interventionist techniques. They stay with the client continuously, sometimes acting as an intermediary between the medical staff and the client.  

They make sure medical staff read the client's birth plan and do their best to help the client adhere to it, appreciating that you can't always control the birth experience. They often provide translation services for women who don't understand medicalese.  

The service costs $300 to $1,000 for the entire birth experience depending on how much pre- and post-natal care is included.  

According to a number of studies, the introduction of doula services during birth is what has really made the difference in terms of reduced medical interventions and positive memories.  

In one study conducted in a hospital setting, Dr. John Kennell, professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, and a pioneer in the field of perinatal health care, found that doula care reduced the need for a caesarean section by 50 per cent.  

He and his colleagues also found doula care shortened labour by 25 per cent and reduced requests for epidurals by 60 per cent. It also increased the incidence of breastfeeding and the satisfaction of mothers and their partners at six weeks post partum. Other studies have corroborated the results, though not always with the same percentages.  

But isn't the father supposed to be the coach, encouraging proper breathing techniques and helping the labouring woman to focus? Isn't he supposed to talk to the doctors and nurses and relay to them the needs of the mother?  

The father plays an important role in the birth, says Jalana Grant, a doula for 21 years. Doulas are not there to replace them. "But it is not fair to ask a man to coach a sport he has never played and probably never even seen before. Having husbands in the room did not change outcomes at all."  

Indeed, she says, women often love their partners more when they have had a doula. It takes the pressure off, she figures.  

Law's doula couldn't prevent the emergency caesarean section she needed to give birth to Acacia, but she made the difference during 20 hours of pain up to that point. Law suffered constant excruciating sciatic nerve pain down one leg, plus terrible pain around her coccyx, all of which was topped off with labour contractions.  

The doula, Jan Nusche, took care of the sciatic pain and contractions and assigned Law's husband to the coccyx. She massaged for hours, recommended changes in Law's position and got her into a bath with a ball so she could get some water pressure on her back.  

She knew what she was doing, says Law. "My doula had done over 100 births and she was able to say at the 20th hour, 'you are exhausted, these are your options.' "  

At that point, Law opted for the epidural, which relieved her pain but resulted in a sudden drop in the baby's heart rate. Law was rushed into surgery and Acacia was born by C-section. Still, Law was glad for her doula's support. When she came out of surgery, Nusche was still there, wanting to make sure Law didn't have problems helping her baby start breastfeeding.  

Doulas - at least those certified by Doulas of North America, the continent's largest doula organization - have strict standards of practice and a code of ethics which limits their role to non-clinical emotional and physical support. The standards stipulate that doulas must not speak for the client, but just help them to speak for themselves by providing the information they need.  

It's a service that the medical establishment is starting to notice. Obstetricians and GPs now welcome doulas into hospital birthing rooms. Across North America, health authorities have established doula programs to meet the needs of particular population targets.  

In Chicago, a program trained teen mothers to become doulas for other pregnant teens. Operation Special Delivery provides free doula services to U.S. women preparing for birth while their partners are deployed overseas and the Pacific Association for Labor Support offers doula support to incarcerated women who would otherwise give birth in the company of prison medical staff and a prison guard.  

In South Vancouver, a doula program is getting under way to meet the needs of the many immigrant women in that area. With a $300,000 budget over three years funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the program has trained 18 women who speak multiple languages in the intricacies of doula services. They plan to provide a free doula at 350 births each year, about a quarter of the births in that area.  

"We wanted to figure out how to do things differently," says Dr. Sue Harris, who founded the program with midwife Lee Saxell. Harris said South East Vancouver is bereft of caregivers for prenatal care and childbirth.  

"We couldn't actually find any family physicians, no midwives and no obstetricians either. We felt this was an issue in an area with a high immigrant population. They had needs that weren't being met."  

In focus groups, they learned that women in that area did not feel they got enough time with their physicians, were not getting their questions answered and felt disrespected.  

Harris says she is confident that having a doula will go a long way toward improving their birth experiences. As an attending physician, Harris has experienced firsthand the benefits of doula services many times.  

But recently, she attended a birth in which both the labouring mother and her spouse were extremely anxious. The doula was so effective that the woman gave birth without using any pain medication except gas.  

"I have seen positive doula support before, but it was even more important to this woman. I am more sold than ever."  

It was pretty important to Law as well. She says she entered into the labour with the confidence of a well-prepared businesswoman, expecting things to go her way. "But at the end of the day, everything I did not want or expect to happen happened."  

That is where the doula came in. She was able to help Law get her head around it all.  

"I feel like I have made a friend."  

DOULAS IN KINGSTON  

Childbirth Kingston keeps a doula registry. To find a doula in this area, call 384-7774.  

Online:   www.childbirthkingston.com  

E-mail:   info@childbirthkingston.com  


By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Doula duty: Doulas provide physical, emotional and informational support to women
The Barrie Examiner  
Sat 06 Mar 2004  
Page: C1 / Front  
Section: Celebrations  
Byline: Susan Doolan  
Source: The Barrie Examiner  


When Clara Nagy-Walline became pregnant with her first child, she went in search of a doula.  

The term doula, a Greek word pronounced 'doo-la,' is given to an experienced woman who assists during the childbirth process.  

Today, a doula's role is to provide physical, emotional and informational support to women, beginning prior to the birth, through the delivery as well as after the baby is born. They differ from midwives in that a doula provides no clinical support.  

In layman's terms, Clara's husband Keven summed it up this way: a doula looks after everything from the waist up, while a midwife handles everything from the waist down.  

"For me it was twofold because I didn't really have any family here and the other reason was for confidence in the birthing process," said Nagy-Walline. "I've known since I can remember that this was the way it was going to be."  

Today, five months after a difficult birth to a healthy five-month old son named Sebastian, Keven is grateful for their doula's help.  

"Adrenalin flowing - someone who's trained to give you support - it was huge," he said.  

"Never thought I'd say (it) but after he was born, there was no way we could have done it without her."  

Clara began the search for a doula on the Internet (dona.org) and scrolled down to Barrie. After speaking to two or three local doulas, she settled on Yvonne McKenzie of Birth and Beyond, one of two branches. The other is located in Alliston.  

Clara and Yvonne met three times prior to the hospital birth to discuss a birth plan and comfort measures. The doula also provided helpful suggestions and acted as a sounding board for any preconceived ideas.  

One of Clara's natural concerns was pain management.  

"I think it definitely made a difference to ease the contraction pain - also emotionally," she said.  

As it turned out Clara had a difficult time when her son's shoulders became stuck - a potentially serious problem which could necessitate a Caesarean if the young mother decides to have another child.  

Yvonne was on hand for the full 16.5 hour labour.  

Three days later, she returned to help Clara with nursing questions. Six weeks later, Yvonne brought Clara a keepsake - the story of Sebastian's birth, complete with photos and text timelines.  

Melissa Cowl founded Birth and Beyond in Alliston eight years ago, along with Wendy Topping, after a personal experience. The last two of her five children were born with the assistance of a doula (she didn't know about doulas for the first three births).  

An obstetric nurse at Stevenson Memorial Hospital, Lynne Hart brought the doula program to Alliston. Currently, Hart is retired from nursing and is a doula as well as a doula trainer.  

As a result of her experience, Cowl became a doula and doula trainer. Training can take as little as six months, or a long as four years. Doulas are certified and governed by the Doulas of North America. The local association, Doula Care Simcoe County, has 30 active practitioners. It will also provide referrals to local doulas.  

Fees appear to be highly individual. The four doulas of Birth and Beyond prefer not to set a fee but rather base it on what the parents feel they can afford. And if the parents can't afford it, these four will do it for free.  

"We leave the decision to them," said Cowl, explaining their vision statement is 'a doula for every mother that wants one.'  

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By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
New treatments born in ancient tradition: Annie Smith St-Georges owns the first aboriginal complementary health centre in the Outaouais, but her treatments are not new. As she tells Dave Rogers , 'they're as old as my ancestors.'
The Ottawa Citizen  
Fri 05 Mar 2004  
Page: F5  
Section: City  
Byline: Dave Rogers  
Source: The Ottawa Citizen  


On the surface, the Wage Centre looks like dozens of other medical or chiropractic clinics in Gatineau.  

But people who walk through the doors of the first aboriginal complementary health centre in the Outaouais won't just find the usual trappings of such clinics. Instead, the mostly non-aboriginal patients are also being treated using eagle feathers, sweetgrass, cedar, sage, and tobacco -- as well as through chiropractic and massage therapy.  

Clinic owner Annie Smith St-Georges helps stressed and grieving clients in a small room in the back using an aboriginal medicine wheel. The wheel -- a circle drawn on a deer skin on a table -- is divided into four quadrants that represent the four elements of the human body: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  

"The use of traditional medicines is new to alternative medicine, but it is as old as my ancestors," said Ms. Smith St-Georges said.  

The 51-year-old says the Wage Centre (pronounced wagay, which means calm in Algonquin) is the result of ancient Algonquin knowledge about how to help people achieve better health. She eventually hopes to convince a medical doctor to join the clinic.  

Devastated by the suicide of her 16-year-old son in 1990, Ms. Smith St-Georges used every form of counselling and therapy she could find to help her cope with the loss. But she still feels as if the tragedy happened yesterday.  

"After my son died, I was brought right down to the ground," she said. "It affected me mentally and physically because I was in a state of shock. Spiritually, I found it difficult to believe in the Creator after this happened.  

"The eagle feather was offered to me at a conference on suicide. I use it now as a healing feather to pass over the person's body."  

An Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi Reserve near Maniwaki, Ms. Smith St-Georges believed she could help others cope with grief, stress and a variety of physical ailments.  

She quit her job as a native employment equity officer with the federal Indian Affairs Department in 1997 and opened the centre on Ste-Bernadette Street in the basement of a medical clinic a year ago.  

Besides Ms. Smith St-Georges, the centre staff includes a chiropractor, masso-therapist, orthotherapist, naturotherapist and a nurse.  

Patients who experience physical pain may visit the centre's chiropractor, Dr. Pierre Couture, one of the centre's massage therapists, receive a posture analysis or be fitted with foot orthotics.  

But Ms. Smith St-Georges says the centre offers treatment for more than physical pain.  

Patients who visit for "aboriginal relaxation" immediately notice the aroma of burning sweetgrass in the room. A stuffed panda sits on the floor while a moosehide drum and braided sweetgrass hang on the wall.  

Part of the treatment there includes teaching about herbs and the cycle of life.  

"With the medicine wheel, we start in the physical section where the child is born, proceed to the teenage years, adulthood and then to the elderly who are getting ready to go home to Mother Earth," said Ms. Smith St-Georges.  

"This corresponds to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual in the tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass parts of the medicine wheel."  

She said Algonquins believe that burning sage in a seashell "smudge bowl" increases mental powers and is a medicine for women.  

Sweetgrass is regarded as a male medicine. Fresh cedar branches are used to brew a tea that is said to calm emotional distress.  

More than than 90 per cent of the clinic's clients are not aboriginals. Ms. Smith St-Georges said most patients are covered by private medical insurance, but she seldom treats aboriginal people because Health Canada's aboriginal health insurance provides enough coverage for only one or two chiropractic treatments.  

"It is sad that I cannot treat my own people," she said.  

"They want to come to the clinic, but they do not have enough insurance coverage. They are covered by medical insurance like everyone else, but they don't have enough benefits for other forms of treatment."  

Complementary medicine is a catch-all phrase that includes naturopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, aromatherapy and more.  

According to Statistics Canada, at least 3.3 million Canadians sought treatment outside the medical establishment in 1995, spending at least $1 billion out of their own pockets for treatments not reimbursed by provincial health plans.  

Surveys have shown that four out of 10 Canadians regularly use alternative medicines, and the amount spent on vitamins and herbal supplements is rising 20 per cent a year.  

Cathy Rouleau, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Ministry of Health said the government doesn't pay for alternative treatments -- including the kind of care Wage Centre provides -- because they aren't medically recognized.  

But Dr. Couture said Health Canada is interested in aboriginal medicine because it may help people recover more quickly.  

He said he joined the clinic to help provide patients -- especially aboriginals -- with a variety of different types of complementary medicine.  

"The difference about our clinic is the patient decides which services to use and they can control their own health," Dr. Couture said.  

"Traditional aboriginal relaxation is something that everybody should experience because it gives you well-being and peace in (your) mind and heart.  

"I was curious to see how traditional aboriginal medicine would work. I was surprised to find out how well this medicine works compared to the treatments we know.  

"It gives a better result than the regular medicine we take every day."  

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By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
LEARN HOW AMERICA IS USING CAM

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics released the most complete and reliable findings to date on Americans' use of CAM in May 2004. This study explores how many Americans are using CAM and what therapies they are using for various health problems and concerns. Read about this new study in the Summer 2004 issue of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the NIH," available at nccam.nih.gov/news/newsletter.
By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016

Foot soldiers in AIDS fight; African hospices ease pain, chip away at stigma Donors begin to realize value of palliative care
The Toronto Star
Sun 18 Jul 2004
Page: F2
Section: Business
Byline: Reed Lindsay
Source: Special to the Star
The white pickup truck rattles to a halt at a round mud and thatch hut cemented with cow dung.

Princess Cele, a stout woman wearing sunglasses, a dark blue beret and a mint green uniform adorned with epaulets, motions her head to a mound of dirt outside the hut.

"She's dead," says Cele, who is making her daily rounds as a nurse for South Coast Hospice.

A young woman confirms that indeed her 34-year-old cousin died three days ago. A baby now sleeps on the thin, worn mattress where the cousin spent her final days.

In these winter months, when the temperature drops at night and the wind blows dust over the steep, grassy hills that rise above the sugarcane plantations and beach resorts of South Africa's Indian Ocean coastline, the death toll mounts.

Pneumonia and tuberculosis often deal the final blow, but only after HIV/AIDS has ravaged the body's immune system.

Ten minutes' drive away, down a rutted dirt road that cuts through Elim's expanse of ridge-top huts, Cele visits a second patient.

Sizakele Ntuli, a gaunt woman with large eyes and a beatific face, grimaces in pain as she struggles to sit up in bed in her small, dimly lit room. Her throat burns from oral thrush and her body aches. She has lost nearly all feeling in her feet and cannot stand on her own.

Ntuli says she felt fine two weeks ago, but the disease appears to be advancing rapidly.

"The numbness in the feet shows that her immune system is going down," says Cele, sighing deeply. "Until now, she's been up and moving about. But today, I can see that she's sick. It looks like she's getting worse."

Cele massages Ntuli's feet with a topical analgesic and replenishes her supply of vitamins, painkillers and antibiotics.

Like most people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, Ntuli cannot afford antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which could prolong her life and keep her healthy. Without the ARVs, Cele limits herself to mitigating Ntuli's pain and making her feel more comfortable as her body wastes away.

According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 2.3 million people died from HIV/AIDS last year in sub-Saharan Africa - many of them malnourished, under-medicated and in unremitting pain.

In South Africa, more than 400,000 infected people are likely to die this year.

But increasingly, people with HIV/AIDS are suffering less and facing their deaths with a degree of dignity, helped by a burgeoning network of grassroots hospices and community caregivers operating with threadbare resources and little or no government support.

While some experts argue that the only long-term solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the prevention of future infections or the discovery of a vaccine, health-care professionals in sub-Saharan Africa's poor rural areas and slums are trying to answer the more starkly immediate question of what to do about the dying.

"With 7,000 people a day dying from AIDS in Africa, and under horrible circumstances for most people, it's an intolerable holocaust," says Peter Sarver, of the New York-based Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa. "There is a critical mass of people who decided to face this head on."

In sub-Saharan Africa - where UNAIDS says 28.5 million people (or 71 per cent of the world's total) are living with HIV/AIDS - most hospitals have neither the resources nor the expertise to care for dying AIDS patients. Hospices and the volunteers with whom they work are often the only source of support for those who are dying.

In the last decade, dozens of hospices have formed to provide what is called palliative care - helping people cope with pain and with the trauma of facing death.

Nowhere has the hospice movement been stronger than in South Africa, where an estimated 5.3 million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2002, more people than in any other nation in the world.

Ten years of democracy in South Africa have resulted in little economic improvement in places like Elim, where there is no industry and only meagre subsistence farming. Just as they did under apartheid, many men leave their families to work odd jobs in cities or as migrant labourers.

The prevalence of migrant labour combined with crushing poverty has created ripe conditions for spreading HIV/AIDS.

At South Coast Hospice, Cele and three other nurses look after some 800 patients, twice as many as the hospice cared for three years ago. As patients succumb to the disease - on average they last eight months under the hospice's care before they die - they are quickly replaced by an ever-growing number of new ones.

South Coast is based in KwaZulu-Natal province, considered the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

A 2002 survey of antenatal clinics in KwaZulu-Natal showed 36.5 per cent of pregnant women to be HIV-positive, the highest of any South African province.

In order to handle its growing caseload with a limited staff, South Coast has teamed with family members and volunteers who often provide day-to-day care for the sick in their homes with guidance from a hospice nurse.

Like most hospices in sub-Saharan Africa, South Coast has only a handful of back-up beds, so it concentrates on visiting patients in their homes. Most patients live far from the hospice and the nearest hospital, and cannot afford the bus fare or are too weak to travel.

Many decide to die at home, in order to be close to loved ones and in familiar settings, or because the family cannot afford to transport the corpse back home for burial.

Thousands more in the area are in need of the hospice's services, but they do not seek help due to denial or fear. Those who contact the hospice usually do so only in the later stages of the illness, after their pain has become unbearable.

"There are so many out there, but they don't want to see the hospice truck coming to their homes because everybody knows it is associated with HIV/AIDS," says Thandi, a resident of Elim who began volunteering at South Coast and now is paid a small salary to work full-time as a caregiver and assistant to Cele.

HIV/AIDS continues to carry a potent stigma in Africa, where strict taboos on talking about sexual promiscuity and death are common, and those living with the condition are often ostracized.

Thandi tested HIV-positive last year. She is in good health and is taking ARVs, which the hospice provides gratis for those HIV-positive employees willing to declare their status.

Thandi says she was infected by her husband, who returned home from his job at a mine near Johannesburg when he became sick three years ago.

He had refused to be tested, and it was not until last month that he admitted that he had known his status years ago, but had said nothing, fearing his wife would abandon him.

She has not told her patients that she is HIV-positive. Nor has she told her two sons, ages 20 and 17, although she says she often speaks to them about HIV/AIDS and the importance of abstinence or safe sex.

Little by little, hospices like South Coast have begun chipping away at the stigma, organizing support groups and using palliative care as a beachhead to initiate broader discussions about HIV/AIDS and sex.

"Almost 100 per cent of our patients have divulged their status, and that means breaking the silence, and reducing the stigma and bringing HIV into the open," says Kath Defilippi, CEO of the South Coast Hospice.

"Palliative care is very strongly linked with prevention of HIV .... We have a number of young people who almost on their death bed will tell their friends, their peers, to stop this risky lifestyle, saying 'I'm here because I slept around.' This can be much more powerful than any media campaign."

Until recently, donations to palliative care have been sporadic at best, as money from abroad has instead gravitated toward prevention campaigns, the search for a vaccine or helping AIDS orphans.

"Donors have only just begun realizing that palliative care is an absolutely crucial element in the fight against HIV/AIDS," says Mary Callaway, associate director for the Open Society Institute's International Palliative Care Initiative, which began funding hospices in South Africa in 2002.

"They also are realizing that a little money goes a long way. Palliative care is cheap and these hospices are already out there caring for people largely through volunteer work and on shoestring budgets."

 

By Kim Watson 19 Jan, 2016
Traditional medicine knowledge slipping away
CanWest News Service
Wed 23 Jun 2004
Byline: Matt Goerzen
Source: CanWest News Service; Saskatoon StarPhoenix


SASKATOON - Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are working with two First Nations communities to bring their traditional medicine into mainstream cardiovascular health practices before the knowledge is lost forever.

``Aboriginal medicine has been highly overlooked,'' said Dr. Rui Wang, head researcher for the Cardiovascular Research Group.

Elders and healers from Lac La Ronge Band and the English River First Nation will work closely with the group to identify traditional herbs. Those with this specialized knowledge are dwindling, said Wang.

``Mostly they're gone,'' agreed Henry Beaudry, an elder from North Battleford, about the people who used to make the remedies. ``It's a special kind to take, you have to remember what colour, what kind (and) what way. It's a good idea to research all these things for young people.''

The research group, formed in January, brings together 23 experts from the university's departments of medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and nutrition.

They were inspired by the high mortality rate from diabetes and hypertension in aboriginal communities, Wang explained.

The group will use scanners to identify the active physical components of 26 herbs at a molecular level. They can then synthesize the medicinal components and determine the most effective delivery methods.

Intellectual property rights will be shared with First Nations peoples and they want native scientists to join their team, he said.

``We are hoping someday Canada will have the speciality to train people to practise aboriginal herbal medicine,'' Wang said, noting that similar research in China has resulted in specialized hospitals and universities.

The researchers have identified 39 other bands for future work and eventually want to research how aboriginal medicine can benefit fields other than cardiovascular health.
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