Article written by 2009 DPDF Revitalizing Development Studies Fellow Nicolette D. Manglos and Jenny Trinitapoli, featured in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Volume 52, No. 1:
Faith healing in sub-Saharan Africa has primarily been studied qualitatively among Pentecostal-Charismatic groups, and considered as its own phenomenon with little attention to its relationship to other modes of healing. Using data from Malawi, a religiously diverse African country with high HIV prevalence, we find that faith healing is pervasive across multiple religious traditions. For individuals, attending a faith healing congregation is associated with lower levels of generalized worry about AIDS, and this association is driven by those who switched churches before AIDS became widespread in rural areas. Use of condoms and traditional medicine are, on the other hand, positively associated with worry about AIDS. We argue that faith healing can be understood as a third therapeutic system that coexists with the well-documented biomedical and traditional systems. The success of faith healing approaches lies in their unique ability to combine individual-pragmatic and communal-ritualized aspects of healing to inform interpretations of the AIDS epidemic and its consequences.