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Ethical and regulatory issues surrounding African traditional medicine in the context of HIV/AIDS

This paper by Aceme Nyika provides a comprehensive review of the ethical issues in research using indigenous medicines, focusing in particular on the use of traditional medicine to treat HIV/AIDS in Africa. The author suggests that the superstition attached to African traditional medicine, together with a laxity in the regulations governing its practice, means that ethical issues have not been adequately addressed.

Nyika argues that it is especially important to demystify diagnosis and therapy if African traditional medicine is to meet minimum ethical and regulatory standards. This can only be done through research on traditional medicine, following the same stages — from animal model to human trials — as conventional medicine. There is also a need for ethical approval, first person informed consent, monitoring for adverse reactions and dissemination of findings. In this paper, Nyika discusses why these have proved difficult to implement and suggests some of the ways in which they could be put into practice.