In many countries throughout the world the belief in witches and black magic is common and considered as part of everyday life. A 2010 poll of 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that over half of the population believes in magic and in it they find the causes of different diseases, including HIV.
For instance, widows in some parts of Africa are expected to engage in unprotected sex in order to 'cleanse' themselves or otherwise their husband's spirit could come back, cursing the whole family. There are even professional 'cleansers' who charge high prices for their services, which the widows often pay to avoid a curse on their families. Because this spiritual cleansing involves unprotected sex, the widows are placed at an increased risk of contracting HIV.
Nicoli Nattrass, director of South Africa’s AIDS and Society Research Unit, says that among many spiritual causes of HIV the most common are witchcraft attacks and the loss of protection from ancestors through violating cultural taboos. According to these beliefs, the symptoms of AIDS, diarrhea, tuberculosis and wasting away, are the classic symptoms of poisoning through witchcraft. Even when people know that AIDS is caused by a sexually transmitted virus, suspicions of witchcraft may be retained as potential explanations for the ultimate reason behind the infection. One particularly dangerous myth in Africa holds that having sex with a virgin can cure a person of AIDS.
That is why it‘s very important to educate people about HIV/AIDS and while doing so, to eradicate these deeply rooted customs that are responsible for the further spreading of the disease.