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Re: [ujeni] Fwd: RPCV Malawi/ request for information

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  • Scott Geibel
    I responded to this (below- lengthy and I advise deleting unless you truly are interested) even though I arrived a year after Mchape. This really was a
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 3, 2007
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      I responded to this (below- lengthy and I advise deleting unless you truly are interested) even though I arrived a year after Mchape. This really was a landmark phenomenon in the African AIDS epidemic, so I hope a few of you who remember well will help out.

      Marissa, I hope those who remember it well will reply. There has been no proper comprehensive account of this amazing event, and I also suggest gathering the accounts of Health officials who themselves took Mchape.


      It happened before I arrived in Chitipa (I replaced Waldorf in 1996). It has been documented in the Waldorf paper and by the VSO doctors in charge of Chitipa District Hospital ( http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/311/7006/678) that nurses and clinical officers were ferried by Ministry vehicles for Mchape; apparently that's how crazy it was. Last I heard, Waldorf was living in Washington, DC. You might be better off looking for Voysey and Gray in Britain, who can point you towards some of their VSO colleagues administrating other hospitals at the time. Many Malawian nurses are also working in Britain today as nursing home staff and such, including the individual Waldorf mentions at the opening of the Waldorf paper.


      I'm sure that you've probably gone deeper into the literature regarding the deeper origins of "Mchape" terminology as referred to by some colonial-era literature (the word appears in several early Africana pieces, the works of Terence Ranger, particularly). There is some deep cultural history of Mchape as a "witchcraft"-related eradication mechanism in both Malawi and Zambia; all of this needs an updated perspective. I think that the Waldorf and Probst papers are fine as personal perspectives, but someone needs to tie it all together in a comprehensively researched account.


      I have somewhere (not readily accessible) a brief written account of how one day in my office (I think 1997), a young man from the Misuku area (speaking perfect English) came in and informed me he had an HIV cure and wanted the hospital to provide some HIV+ patients to test it. He pulled out of his pants a large glass flask filled with dark greenish, watery fluid. He was very determined, and I told him maybe he could convince a few members of the local HIV+ NAPHAM group in town to try it. He told me God had described the medicine to him in a dream, with specific instructions on content mixing, preparation, dosage, and administration. The catch: it HAD to be administered by needle injection! Of course, I told him the hospital would never endorse this, especially without knowledge of the contents (the common denominator of most healers with HIV cures is their refusal to disclose their formulations). We gave him the name of a MOH official in Lilongwe who deals with traditional medicines, and suggested that maybe they could assist him, given that the Injection procedure was from his perspective unavoidable. In the mail I received the CC response from the Ministry, who backed me personally and informed my friend he was out of luck. I was half-hoping they might help him start clinical trials.

      On 4/2/07, Jesse Kwiek <kwiek@...> wrote:


      I received a request this morning asking for info on "mchape" and AIDS in Malawi. Can anyone help Marissa out with some info? 
      The only thing I remember is that mchape was supposedly "endorsed" by Michael Jordan. If you would, please copy your responses to Ujeni, as I'm curious as well.
      I hope everyone is well.

      Begin forwarded message:

      From: Marissa Doran < chisupeproject@...>
      Date: April 2, 2007 8:27:10 AM EDT
      Subject: RPCV Malawi/ request for information

      Dear Dr. Kwiek,
      My name is Marissa Doran, and I am an American Rhodes Scholar at Oxford working on a dissertation on the Billy Chisupe/ 'mchape' affair in Liwonde, Malawi beginning in 1995 (briefly, Chisupe claimed to have found a cure for AIDS, and hundreds of thousands, or perhaps a million, people drove south to try it.)


      I found your e-mail address on the RPCV website, and I am contacting you in the hopes that you might have some information on the event.


      There's been very, very little written about this-- something like three newspaper articles and two journal articles-- and so talking with people who remember the events is essential.


      To that end, I am looking to contact anyone who might remember the Chisupe affair, and particularly anyone who might have been involved in the official, religious, or public health response to Chisupe, for a conversation by e-mail or phone, or perhaps in person in Malawi in late April. If this might be you or someone you know, please e-mail me at chisupeproject@... .


      I'd also be interested in reading anything that you may have written—in diaries, letters, etc.—about Chisupe or AIDS or traditional medicine in Malawi while in the Peace Corps or after the fact. I can send you a copy of my work when I'm finished, and I will of course acknowledge anything of yours that I use.


      If you have any information on "mchape," or if you would be able to suggest some names of people to contact for further information, I would be much obliged.


      Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to hearing from you.


      Marissa Doran
      p.s. I am trying to contact a RPCV named Saral Waldorf, who wrote about the event at the time. Might you know how to contact her, if she is still living?


      Marissa Doran
      UK cell: +44 (0)7766733595
      5 Ferry Road
      Oxford OX3 OET ENGLAND


      Jesse J. Kwiek, Ph.D.
      Department of Epidemiology
      CB# 7435, 3113 Hooker Research Building
      UNC-Chapel Hill
      Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435

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