Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

What Is the Best Treatment?

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 2: Solving Health Problems > What Is the Best Treatment?


Is a Treatment Helpful or Harmful?

Although Don Pedro was certain that medicines would solve the problem, Juanita wanted more information before deciding on a treatment. She knew, for example, that home remedies had often helped her mother and grandmother when they were ill. Why, then, did the remedies she had tried fail to work? Here is Don Pedro’s explanation:

Don Pedro speaking to Juanita
Every community has developed remedies for solving health problems. Home remedies and modern medicine can both be helpful if practiced carefully and correctly. But remember that both home remedies and modern medicines can be helpful, can be harmless, and also be harmful.
In Juanita’s case, she had used all 3 kinds of remedies:
an ear of corn next to a cup of tea
Corn silk tea would have been very helpful if Juanita had an infection of the urine system. This is because corn silk tea makes a person pass urine more and so flushes germs out of the body. But these teas probably did not help Juanita because her infection was not in the urine system.
a woman with a medicine pouch tied around her waist under her dress
Putting plant medicines into the vagina is harmful and should never be done. Plant medicines can irritate the vagina and cause dangerous infections.
Wrapping plant medicines around the belly is a harmless remedy. It will not make a health problem worse, because the medicines stay outside the body, but it will not help, either.

a woman putting plant medicines into her vagina


Don Pedro told Juanita that she could learn about a particular treatment and how well it works by talking to many different people who have used it. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Why do you use this method?
  • When do you use it?
  • How do you use it?
  • What happens when you use it?
  • How often does it help the problem?
  • Do things ever go wrong?

Think carefully about what different people say about treatments they have used. Then, when you try a remedy yourself, pay attention to what happens to your signs to see if the remedy helps you. Be careful about trying too many remedies at once.

a woman offering a medicine pouch to Juanita

This helped Maria del Carmen, so it may help you, too.
But Maria del Carmen had pains after childbirth, not while passing urine. So this remedy may not help me at all.
bottles of pills
When Juanita felt satisfied that modern medicines were the best treatment for her health problem, Don Pedro gave Juanita some pills called doxycycline and ciprofloxacin and told her to come back in a week, after she had taken them all. He also explained that her husband, who was away again, must be treated with the medicines when he comes back, and that they must begin to practice safer sex.

When Juanita returned to see Don Pedro the next week, she told him that she had taken all the pills he gave her but was getting worse and becoming yellow in color. So Don Pedro asked Valeria, a health worker with more training, for help.

health worker Valeria talking to Juanita

Valeria agreed that Juanita had an STI. But because the medicines had not helped, Valeria suspected that Juanita may have a form of gonorrhea that is resistant to ciprofloxacin. Valeria explained that many resistant forms of gonorrhea had come from foreign soldiers at the military base on the coast, who have been infecting the local women when they had sex. Valeria recommended that Juanita go to the city where she could get a more complete exam and be tested for gonorrhea, syphilis (another STI), and cancer. She could also get newer, more effective medicines, if needed.

Risks and Benefits

Juanita went home to think about what to do. She would have to spend most of her family’s savings to pay for a trip to the city and the medicine. Since she would be gone at least two days (the trip is almost 6 hours each way by bus and walking), and her husband was still away at the coast, she would also have to find someone to watch her children while she was gone.

Juanita was afraid that her husband would be angry if he came back and found out that she had spent so much money to see a doctor. But she was also scared that if she did not go she would get worse. Valeria told her that without treatment she could pass the infection on to a new baby if she became pregnant. With time she would probably become unable to have more children, would develop severe pain in her lower belly, and would have problems with her urine system and monthly bleeding. Her husband could also develop many serious health problems.

Juanita felt so uncertain about what to do that she went to see Valeria again. When Juanita explained her fears, Valeria suggested thinking about the problem this way:

Juanita thinking and then telling the health worker her decision
These are the benefits of going to the city:
  • I will feel better and can go on caring for my family.
  • I will be able to have more children
  • I will not pass the infection on to the baby if I become pregnant.
I will face these risks if I go to the city:
  • Raul may be angry when he finds out.
  • I will have to spend some of our savings.
If it were just so I'd feel better, the treatment wouldn't be worth it. But if it's true that I'll get much sicker and cannot have more children, then I must go to the city.


a bus traveling toward a city

So Juanita went to the city for treatment, where the doctors said it was true that she had gonorrhea and probably chlamydia, but no signs of other STIs or problems. They explained that the medicine she had taken no longer works in her country. They gave Juanita a newer medicine both for her and her husband.


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