BACKGROUND: Based on the premise that Africans in rural areas seek health care from traditional healers, this study investigated a collaborative model between traditional healers and the national Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) programs across seven endemic foci in seven central African countries by measuring the model's contribution to HAT case finding.
METHOD: Traditional healers were recruited and trained by health professionals to identify HAT suspects based on its basics signs and symptoms and to refer them to the National Sleeping Sickness Control Program (NSSCP) for testing and confirmatory diagnosis.
RESULTS: 35 traditional healers were recruited and trained, 28 finally participated in this study (80%) and referred 278 HAT suspects, of which 20 (7.19%) were CATT positive for the disease. Most cases originated from Bandundu (45%) in the Democratic Republic of Congo and from Ngabe (35%) in Congo. Twelve (4.32%) patients had confirmatory diagnosis. Although a statistically significant difference was not shown in terms of case finding ( = 0.56), traditional healers were able to refer confirmed HAT cases that were ultimately cared for by NCSSPs.
CONCLUSION: Integrating traditional healers in the control program of HAT will likely enhance the detection of cases, thereby, eventually contributing to the elimination of HAT in the most affected communities.