The story at Lyantonde

During the last two days at Lyantonde, we introduced eighteen Ugandan health workers to direct moxa.


Our aim was to assess how they would feel about the idea of burning something on the skin, and whether they would consider it an acceptable therapy to try out in their own work places. Additionally we wanted to assess how easy it might be to teach African health workers basic moxa skills. We soon had them all rolling moxa, both making and burning tiny cones with impressive dexterity.

The following day we were invited to demonstrate moxa treatments on two patients, one of them a very sick man co-infected with TB and HIV. He was terribly wasted by the two diseases, cared for by his sister who was vainly trying to administer his daily medication. After we had finished treating him, using the minimum possible stimulation of moxa because of his dreadful condition, we used a trainee to help us explain to his sister how to use moxa and how to locate a treatment point, leaving her clear instructions on a simple protocol to follow every day, building up dosage if he strengthened.


What we witnessed at this moment was something we had not even considered previously – that teaching the carer of such a sick person a simple moxa protocol fundamentally offered her something meaningful to do for her brother, and it was offering her something maybe even more important as well – hope. 


To our knowledge this was the first time that a moxa protocol for TB from the 1930’s has ever been used to treat anyone co-infected both with TB and AIDS anywhere in the world. Two weeks after we got back we got the following extraordinary feedback:

Frank's response was truly fantastic. I wish you had seen the joy in his sister/attendant as she explained to us how he had improved. I think everyone was just so excited, as he seemed so ill.”


Two days after the treatment began, it transpired that Frank was out of bed, walking tentatively in the ward, and eating.

Cautiously, we found ourselves asking whether this simple treatment might really be able to make the sort of difference we hoped it might.

The first steps in Africa consisted of a fact finding trip in December 2009. We went to Lyantonde as volunteers with the Pan African Acupuncture Project at the local hospital. Lyantonde is a truck stop town four hours west of Kampala on the main arterial road connecting Rwanda and the Congo to East Africa and the coast. The town has the unfortunate reputation as being a focus for prostitution, supplied for the benefit of the truck drivers. It also has infamy in terms of the story of AIDS in Africa, being home to the first ever officially recorded case in Africa.