Promoting the use of traditional medicine in national health care: Profiling Prof Priscilla S. Dlamini

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Prof. Priscilla S. Dlamini is a Professor in Nursing and Midwifery and a Director of Swaziland Institute for Research in Traditional Medicine, Medicinal and Indigenous Food Plants (SIRMIP) at the University of Swaziland. Her research area focuses on finding the best possible ways to encourage collaboration between traditional healers and western practitioners particularly in managing chronic illnesses.

Prof Dlamini is part of the Swaziland National Emergency Council on HIV organizing committee for a National HIV Conference to be held from 12-14th July prior to the International AIDS Conference in Durban and responsible for abstracts review. She is also a member of steering committee that deals with Research issues in the East Central and Southern African health-Community (ECSA-Health), and recently finished a study on SADC students’ knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding HIV/AIDS which was a multi-university research project with University of Botswana, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mauritius.

“In terms of health one of the research projects we were engaged in was about analysing stigma and discrimination related to HIV. The project lasted for five years in five African countries led to the Ministry of Health and UN agencies requesting me and another scientist to develop a strategy on the reduction of stigma and discrimination against people living with AIDS and other vulnerable groups.  A pilot implementation of the reduction strategy was done in one hospital in the country where even today that hospital has a friendly atmosphere. I was also the PI of this study and the strategy on reduction of stigma and discrimination,” she elaborates.

Prof Dlamini encourages aspiring young female scientists to forge ahead, study hard and most of all engage in research: “Women should be motivated to engage in science since they have sharp minds and are a hard working group of people when they focus; they also have very good leadership skills and can take this field further. Collaborative research can also be very beneficial since often in individual research you may end up feeling drained with no motivation or competitiveness.”

In her free time Prof Dlamini goes on holidays when possible, but mostly she spend her leisure time counselling people; she is well-known among locals for counselling on life issues. And indeed, when asked what indigenous plant would describe her best, she replies: “I would be a plant called Warburgia Salutaris (Umhlabelo). It is endangered, it has microbial properties and is used for common colds, but it has also been used spiritually to influence peoples’ thoughts and actions.”