Moxafrica arrives in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Starting next week, an exciting new initiative begins in South Africa. Once again the focus will be on in moxa and TB, but on this occasion with an interesting new twist.


We have been invited by the ‘Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre’ in the centre of Durban, to come and introduce (and train, of course) their staff to moxa. Home - Bellhaven (bellhavenharmreductioncentre.co.za)


A total of five (!) issues that make this new initiative potentially really significant...

We accepted Bellhaven's invitation enthusiastically – not least because this is the first TB initiative that we will have been able to launch since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s very significant for us simply on this count.


It’s also significant, though, because KwazaZulu Natal is a hotspot for MDR-TB in Africa (it was where the first XDR-TB was identified in fact). In other words, it’s a region where highly drug-resistant strains have seeded and festered for years and is a well-entrenched intransigent problem. We are really hopeful that further opportunities will emerge from this trip which will enable further investigations of the efficacies of moxa for supporting recoveries for MDR-TB patients, even including the opportunity to put the excitingfindings harvested from North Korea to further test.


But it’s also significant because of the nature of the patients that our team will encounter on this occasion. They will almost exclusively be homeless, struggling with chronic substance abuse (mainly smoking heroin), and be highly vulnerable in respect of their health (including from both HIV and TB). To offer a picture of the scale of the homelessness problem in Durban, a recent ‘point of time’ study identified a staggering 16,000 people currently living on the street in the Centre’s locality. It is the needs of this vulnerable that the Bellhaven Centre is endeavouring to meet.



What this means is that we may be asking more of this simple traditional therapy than we’ve asked of it so far. Of course, such a challenge offers an opportunity for all of us to learn and benefit. This opportunity doesn’t just include the Centre’s service users and their care team, of course, but also our trainers, two of whom are coming direct from Japan on this occasion.


This aspect is also significant because, while we have had much interest and some wonderful support from Japan itself over the years, this is the first time that resident Japanese acumoxa practitioners have joined one of our initiatives ‘on the ground’. Since both the therapy itself, the evidence base we originally used for its potential to be a beneficial intervention to help TB recovery, and the fundamental inspiration for the whole idea, have all been Japanese, this addition of Japanese people as active participants is not just significant, it's highly important and somehow extremely symbolic.


But another aspect of this trip is also significant. Because of the nature of the patients that this team will meet, we will also be teaching a simple five point ear acupuncture protocol to the Centre’s staff. It’s well known that ear acupuncture can be enormously helpful in substance abuse detox support, and we made the decision to include this on this trip some weeks ago, but recent events have now made this decision particularly relevant, as well as potentially exciting.


Up until now, Bellhaven has been offering oral methadone as a support to its service users in their withdrawals, but the budget for this important provision has unfortunately recently been exhausted (the price of methadone in South Africa has been in the hands of a single supplier who has been able to demand higher prices for the drug compared to other African countries). This problem is, of course, very serious for the Centre and its users, but it is already being addressed by the Bellhaven team. What it means, however, is that our team will be arriving at a really difficult time both for the Centre and its patients who will almost certainly have no methadone support for several weeks.


We really hope that we will find that the combination of moxa (not necessarily just for their TB but also for detox support) along with ear acupuncture will do something to help relieve this problem. What’s more (as usual) we intend to do our best to monitor how this all goes so that we can provide the most relevant further support down the track, and also be able to offer some sort of quantifiable summary of how helpful Bellhaven's service users found this curious therapy.


The trainings in the next fortnight will be led by Yuki Itaya. Yuki is one of our trustees, a longtime dedicated servant of Moxafrica, and a moxa expert. She will be travelling with her amazing daughter, Narumi, who we really hope finds the trip as exciting in more educational ways as she will do in culutural ones. Yuki will be ably supported by Daichi Sasaki and Minako Higa from Japan both of whom have huge amounts to contribute to this trip.


We wish them all ‘safe travels!’ and ‘happy moxa-ing’ on this exciting trip. And we offer pour immense appreciation to the staff of Bellhaven for inviting us and look forward to establishing wonderful new friendships.

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